In the end it was the heroic Carlos Puyol, overmatched in speed but not in intensity and in desire who held aloft the CL trophy. His Barcelona side turned in a dominating display which overwhelmed the Red Devils. I have to say, watching this match, gave an impression of a sacrificial lamb fattened up before the inevitable slaughter. Man Utd had swept aside Arsenal and Barca had barely survived Chelsea.
The Guardian pundits had all said that it would be Man Utd's to lose. But if the team did not show up to play, what then was there to lose? Could we also rest all charges of a conspiracy because if Barca had not played Man Utd, we would have not known what a circular firing squad the EPL actually is.
Eto'o's subtle trickery yielded a goal against the run of play in the 10th minute cut against conventional wisdom. It was supposed to be Man Utd that would stick the knife in the very counterattack that fetched Barca a goal.
This was repeated ad nauseam by everyone in the world:young, old, infirm, fan, pundit, prisoner, Inuit, despot, midget, and internalized by the Utd players. The goal shattered Man Utd's psyche, forcing it to retreat into a shell, only venturing out to make an occasional foray in the first half. The pendulum had swung the other way in a heartbeat. Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez started moving the ball around effortlessly. Man Utd's bright and domineering start became a distant memory. A spell which saw Victor Valdes tested a few times by Ronaldo. Park Ji Sung coming close after Valdes spilled a cracking shot from Ronaldo into his path. The Korean ballooned the ball over under Pique's challenge. That was the extent of Man Utd's chances.
More was to come in the second half and Van Der Saar and the back four were rocking back on their heels. Barca should have gone up by a few more goals, with Henry muffing a simple chance. A brief interlude of Man Utd possession proved to be ineffectual in attaining the equalizer. The deal was sealed when Evra's sloppy clearance found Xavi who took the ball and chipped it elegantly to Messi, who rose unchallenged, all 5' 7" of him to head the ball past Van Der Saar in the 69' minute.
In doing so, Messi answered the challenge. It was a no contest between him and Cristiano Ronaldo who faded away as the match went on. Man Utd came closest to scoring what would have amounted to a consolation goal when Park Ji Sung failed to meet Rooney's cross. Carrick and Anderson were invisible, and the Brazilian was substituted by Carlos Tevez who failed to provide a spark. The elegant Berbatov could not change the game either when he came on for Park Ji Sung.
Barca's back four widely considered its Achilles heel proved to be physical and very adept at winning the 50/50 chances. Yaya Toure was a force with Pique at the center and won Man Utd's long balls. Sylvinho was industrious on the left and kept Rooney quiet. Puyol had a few problems handling Evra and Park's pace but he did not make any major mistakes.
So Barca go out deserving winners. Congratulations to Pep Guardiola and his men.