Champions League Classics: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United, 2011 final

Refresh your memory of the 2011 UEFA Champions League final before watching it back on UEFA.tv.

Lionel Messi scored Barcelona's second goal against Manchester United in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final
Lionel Messi scored Barcelona's second goal against Manchester United in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final

Barcelona turned on the style to beat Manchester United 3-1 and claim their fourth European crown.

WATCH ON UEFA.TV FROM 17:00 CET

Context

2009 final highlights: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
2009 final highlights: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United

It was only two years before that Josep Guardiola's Barcelona side had outmanoeuvred Sir Alex Ferguson's United in the 2009 decider. They were to meet again, this time at Wembley, scene of Barcelona's maiden European Cup success 19 years earlier, after United had enjoyed a resounding 6-1 aggregate victory against Schalke in the semi-finals.

Barça, meanwhile, saw off domestic rivals Real Madrid with the help of two late first-leg goals from Lionel Messi in the Spanish capital. Both finalists had already been crowned domestic champions by the time of their showdown in north London.

Key players

Lionel Messi: Barcelona's maestro was peerless in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League, finishing as top scorer on 12 goals, four more than any other player. He now conjured his second strike in a final, having also netted against United in 2009, and his performance earned him Man of the Match plaudits.

David Villa: EURO 2008 top scorer
David Villa: EURO 2008 top scorer

David Villa: This night capped an impressive Camp Nou debut season for Villa. Lead marksman for Spain in their victorious UEFA EURO 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup campaigns, he would endure injury problems for the rest of his time in Barcelona before having a year at Atlético and some late-career globetrotting that spanned Australia, the US and Japan.

Wayne Rooney: A teenage prodigy for boyhood club Everton, Rooney went on to become all-time top scorer for United and England. His game was always characterised by a blend of guile and graft which made him an especially troublesome opponent. He had a year in Washington before taking a player-coach role with Derby County in England's second tier in 2019/20.

What happened

What Sir Alex had previously described as Barcelona's "passing carousel" left United even dizzier than in Rome two years earlier. So often the Blaugrana's conductor, Xavi Hernández played in Pedro Rodríguez for the opening goal on 27 minutes.

Great goals: 2010/11 Champions League
Great goals: 2010/11 Champions League

Though Rooney's excellent side-footed finish swiftly drew United level, the second half turned out to be a one-sided affair. Messi's precise low shot to restore Barcelona's advantage on 54 minutes was a superb effort, but even the Argentinian was outdone shortly afterwards when Villa curled in from long range to rubber-stamp the win.

Reaction

Josep Guardiola, Barcelona coach: "I feel privileged to have these players. The way we won is what I'm most proud of – this is how I want to play football. Lionel Messi is the best player I've seen, the best I will ever see probably. We have good players but without him I don't think we'd be able to make that decisive leap."

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager: "They're the best in Europe, no question. In my time as a manager, I would say they're the best team we've faced. No one has given us a hiding like that. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football."

Barcelona's five European Cup wins
Barcelona's five European Cup wins

Javier Mascherano, Barcelona defender: "We are really happy because we have beaten a fantastic team in Manchester United. We are delighted to have played the way we like to play. Hopefully we can dominate in Europe; we know it is difficult to win every year, but we’ll see."

Edwin van der Sar, United goalkeeper: "It's not always a given that your career ends on a good note but I thank everybody for the memories and we'll see each other again."

Aftermath

Van der Sar headed into retirement having already announced this would be his last professional game. Once the dust had settled, Paul Scholes also declared his intention to hang up his boots, only to return to action six months later. Guardiola, meanwhile, had been making noises about drawing a line under his trophy-laden stewardship of Barcelona but ultimately stayed for a further year before taking a sabbatical.