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Barca puts on a show to eclipse Red Devils

BARCELONA did a lot more than beat Manchester United to capture the Champions League alongside its domestic league and cup double.

The Spanish club swung the pendulum of European power away from the English Premier League.

Last season's final in Moscow between United and Chelsea suggested that the wealth of the English game was threatening to take over.

But Pep Guardiola's team outplayed United to such an extent at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Wednesday it was clear that the real quality is a long way from Manchester or London.

"We're aware we've done something magnificent," Guardiola said after his team's 2-0 victory courtesy of goals by Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi. "We're approaching mythical teams."

The 38-year-old coach, who completed a perfect season of three titles at his first attempt, said he believed Messi had proved without doubt he was the best player on the planet.

"Even if we had lost I wouldn't have changed my opinion about him. Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, absolutely. I think right now he is adding his name to the Golden Ball."

Guardiola's tactical plan to switch winger Messi inside also outfoxed the defenders.

"I saw last year that Leo Messi had little bit problems with (United leftback Patrice) Evra and so I decided to take him out of the right side and put in the middle," Guardiola said. "Messi, with Xavi (Hernandez) and (Andres) Inestia, I tried to have one more man in the midfield."

Messi even came up with a rare header goal to take his Champions League tally to nine - two better than anyone else - and his season total to 38.

"This is the most important victory of my life," Messi said. "When the second goal came that calmed us down a lot."

His goals tally put United star Cristiano Ronaldo in the shade after his 18 league goals and four in the Champions League and the head-to-head to measure which player is the best was one-sided in this final. "This is one of the biggest disappointments of my career. We were always confident before the game but unfortunately we couldn't do it," Ronaldo said.

However, more than 100 people were arrested and 153 injured in the Catalonia region as celebrations turned violent following the victory.

Police said 119 arrests were made in Barcelona for public disorder, vandalism and disobeying police orders, while 15 others were apprehended in the Catalan towns of Lleida, Tarragona, Girona, Granollers and Igualada.

An estimated 100,000 jubilant supporters gathered at the Canaletes fountain on Las Ramblas, the traditional site for celebrating the club's wins, soon after the victory.


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