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Champions League Classics: Barcelona vs Manchester United, 2009

Only one team could make history. Read up on the 2009 final before watching it in full on UEFA.tv.

Barcelona celebrate their final victory against Manchester United
Barcelona celebrate their final victory against Manchester United Getty Images

As Manchester United aimed to become the first side to win back-to-back titles in the UEFA Champions League era, Barcelona were chasing an unprecedented treble in Josep Guardiola's first campaign as a top-flight coach.

Watch in full on UEFA.tv

Context

Great Champions League goals from 2008/09
Great Champions League goals from 2008/09

Despite Barcelona's outstanding domestic form, United were arguably favourites as they attempted to become the first team to successfully defend the trophy in the UEFA Champions League era. Spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tévez, United had claimed their third straight Premier League title and now wanted to complete a prestigious treble. The Red Devils had beaten the Catalan club in the 2007/08 semi-finals, and newly crowned Spanish double winners Barcelona faced defensive problems with Éric Abidal and Dani Alves suspended. "We'll line up with more attacking players," said coach Guardiola.

Key players

Lionel Messi: Having netted 23 Liga goals that term, the 21-year-old's Champions League tally stood at eight for the season going into the Rome showdown. Would he add to his haul?

Samuel Eto'o: The Cameroon striker's 30 in the 2008/09 Liga included four in the first half of a 6-0 romp over Real Valladolid, and the fastest hat-trick in Barça history (23 minutes v Almería – a record since broken by Messi).

Man. United v Barcelona classics
Man. United v Barcelona classics

Cristiano Ronaldo: Finishing United's Premier League campaign on 18 goals, the 2008 Ballon d'Or winner struck in each round of the knockouts, helping to smooth his side's passage to the final.

What happened

Ronaldo posed a major threat in a promising start for United, and goalkeeper Víctor Valdés was grateful for Gerard Piqué’s last-ditch clearance after spilling a bouncing free-kick from United's No7. In fact, Barcelona had barely escaped their own half until, in the tenth minute, Andrés Iniesta released Eto'o inside the United area; the forward cut inside Nemanja Vidić and squeezed a shot past Edwin van der Sar to put Barça ahead from their first real attack.

United had struggled to rattle the classy Blaugrana midfield, but just as they began to edge their way back into the match, their good work was undone. On 70 minutes, Xavi Hernández picked out Messi with a pinpoint cross and the smallest man on the pitch headed home to seal a UEFA Champions League triumph.

Reaction

Cristiano Ronaldo looks on at the full-time whistle
Cristiano Ronaldo looks on at the full-time whistle Getty Images

Josep Guardiola, Barcelona coach: "We wanted to say we played and were not being cowards. There's nothing more dangerous than not taking risks."

Andrés Iniesta, Barcelona midfielder: "It was the first treble [a Spanish club had won]. We achieved it and it's something really unique, magical and something you will always remember."

Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager: "It was a big opportunity for us and with our players I expected better, but we couldn't recover from losing the first goal."

Ryan Giggs, United midfielder: "At times Barcelona can make you look silly because they keep the ball so well."

Aftermath

2010 final highlights: Inter 2-0 Bayern
2010 final highlights: Inter 2-0 Bayern

Messi was awarded the Ballon d’Or for 2009, while Eto’o joined Inter Milan soon after the Rome final and won the European title with the Nerazzurri in 2009/10 – his third UEFA Champions League success. Inter actually knocked out Barcelona in the semis.

Barça and United went head-to-head again in the 2011 Champions League final. Once more it was Barcelona who prevailed, winning 3-1 at Wembley. Barça were then crowned European champions for a fifth time when they overcame Juventus in the 2015 decider. United's only major European trophy since 2008 has come in the 2017 UEFA Europa League.

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