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Thursday, September 12, 2019 7:47:39 PM

A place for Jurgen Klopp amongst the greats at Anfield, where they have a European history unsurpassed in the English game of stupendous performances and great finals — of which, strangely, this, the occasion of their sixth European Cup, was neither. Let us take the achievement first, by a team that chased the Premier League down to the last day without success and then, with nothing left in the tank, managed to win something even better. It was, in the end, the perfect performance on an imperfect night. This Match of the Day au soleil, the hottest ticket in town — which also felt like it was being played in the hottest part of town — was the worst Champions League final in recent memory.

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Follow your club now for first access to all our news, views and analysis Man Utd There is only one Champions League anniversary of theirs that Manchester United can say has been honoured in appropriate fashion this season, and that is the ten years they have spent trying in vain to stop Lionel Messi.

There were days when at least that came in the final. On the touchline before the game Sir Alex Ferguson could be found shaking hands, a man whose football life would have been very different without Messi. His first of two goals was so good it seemed to shock United into obeisance, one of those nights when Messi reminds the opposition that they are in the presence of greatness and nothing they can do will change that.

At some point before half-time, amid one of those periods when his interest is piqued and his involvement is intense, Messi dribbled past Phil Jones twice, either side of sending the inconveniently-placed German referee Felix Brych the wrong way with a sway of the hips.

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It is Messi who routinely declares his genius and on the good days, the rest of his team-mates follow. This was a vintage Barcelona team performance, with an outstanding third goal from Philippe Coutinho and the usual excellence from Ivan Rakitic and the Brazilian, Arthur.

There was the restless foraging of Luis Suarez. This is the first semi-final for the club since they last won the competition in He might have had a hat-trick, an overhead kick with his weaker right foot that went wide in the second half.

It is remains a source of astonishment how long the Messi era is lasting at Barcelona with his 32nd birthday approaching in June and no obvious evidence that he is any less effective on the big occasions. This was a poor United performance, save the first two minutes when they created and squandered their best chances of the game before the home side had awoken.

The goalkeeper was one of four among the back five, including Jones, Ashley Young and Chris Smalling, who were signed by Ferguson and are still rolled out for games like these despite the millions lavished on those supposed to be their successors.

There was no question that Solskjaer had selected a team that intended to take risks in chasing the one-goal deficit from the first leg but even so, it was troubling just how little effect Paul Pogba, Fred and Anthony Martial were able to exert on the game.

Back from injury, Alexis Sanchez came on in the second half to a warmer reception in the Nou Camp than he might expect at Old Trafford. A header of his forced a good save out of Marc-Andre ter-Stegen but by now he was supposed to have done so much more.

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Barcelona vs Manchester United, player ratings: Who stood out and who wilted in Champions League quarter-final? Just after half-time Messi evaded Jones twice and doubled back into the corner with Scott McTominay in a desperate pursuit to restore some kind of order.

It ended in just another foul on an evening when United had to do their best to live with the opposition rather than try to beat them. When Ferguson stood on the touchline before the match, holding court with Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs, Henrik Larsson and Gary Neville it was possible to think of United as the big European team they once were.

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As the game progressed they felt much smaller. They have some good young players, and some determined veterans who give their best, but it is these games against the highest quality opposition when the post-Ferguson years of failed renewal are laid bare.

But what a chance, and the same could be said for McTominay less than two minutes later. The year-old midfielder seemed not to believe that the ball had really reached him and his first touch was so bad the moment was lost.

There was an intervention for the video assistant referee when referee Brych quickly corrected the award of a penalty against Fred. Then, at left-back, Young gave the ball away on the left side and suddenly Messi was travelling at twice the speed of everyone else in the frame.

He went past Young, picked up speed as he deceived Fred and it was hard to tell if he even noticed Jones.

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The crowd rubbed their eyes in disbelief. The king was in the house. Four minutes later, Messi only hit a shot because nothing else was on and it bounced under the gloves of De Gea who, in normal circumstances, catches those with one hand. Coutinho took it beautifully with his right, over the head of De Gea.

The United goalkeeper kept out another late hit from Messi, although by then there was no questioning who was in charge as he goes in pursuit of his fifth Champions League medal.

At times like this it can feel as if he will never stop. This hotch-potch team of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's must now focus on qualifying for a competition in which they have found themselves a light year behind the very best.

Lionel Messi's two goals were fairly routine by his standards, and the same applies to Barcelona, and yet it was an absolute walk in the Camp. After 90 minutes of spectating, Marc-Andre ter Stegen has to react superbly to claw away a Sanchez diving header at the near post!

Brilliant stuff. He replaced Lingard, I read. Mesis trips McTominay after being wrong-footed by a lovely dummy. Yes, that's the right way round.

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The free-kick goes backwards so the passing can keep going. Vidal eventually shoots from 20 yards, and it's deflected wide by an absolutely knackered-looking Jones.

That's one expensive substitution. Moments later, Jesse Lingard tries to break up the United mediocrity by shooting from 25 yards, and the ball flies narrowly over the left-hand angle of post and bar.

Probably was a foul, though. Arthur makes way for Arturo Vidal, who you hope will make less of a madcap entrance than he did at Old Trafford. We are in damage limitation territory already. The ball pops up off the bandaged head of Phil Jones, Messi lets it bounce and then launches into a bicycle kick, but he gets his angles slightly wrong.

Barcelona 3 Coutinho, 61 min Manchester United 0 agg: Hello! I said he'd been quiet, but Philippe Coutinho has now officially made his mark. He picks up a knock-down, 30 yards out, switches on to his trusty right foot, not a pink shirt within touching distance, and pulls the minimal-backlift trigger: the ball flies into the top-right corner!

De Gea didn't have an earthly.

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