There was much anticipation leading up to this year's Champions League showdown between 2009 champions Barcelona and runner-up Manchester United.
Not only was it a repeat of the finals two years prior, but also a decisive match that would see one team pull ahead in the head-to-head meetings between the two teams in the Champions League; Barcelona and Manchester each had three wins against each other and four draws in all head-to-head Champions League games.
Coincidentally, both teams had won the competition three times in their history, with Barcelona winning the trophy most recently in 2009. Clearly, this game was special for both the teams, the players and the coaches.
Despite the fact that the finals were being hosted in Wembley stadium, Manchester United came into the match considered as the underdogs by against the Catalan kings of Barcelona.
In the first few minutes of the match, though, the underdog status seemed to provide nothing but motivation for the red devils as they game out playing sharper of the two sides. Barcelona defenders Alves and Mascherano were dispossessed of the ball in very dangerous territory in the game's opening moments.
Manchester clearly saw Mascherano, a midfeilder by trade but playing centre back, as the weak link and put constant pressure on him and trying to force a mistake. That mistake almost came when Van Der Sar attempted to release Rooney on a goal kick. Mascherano left the ball for Valdes, who had to make a very crucial and timely interception as Rooney was nearly in on goal all alone.
After some nervous and tense moments for the Barcelona defenders, the game began to turn in their favour as the short passing game was initiated. The quick and effective pasing game, what Ferguson called "passing carousel," began to dominate the proceedings. That dominance was inevitably rewarded in the 27th minute when Xavi weaved his magic and set Pedro free to shoot on goal. A quick, low shot that wrong-footed Van Der Sar sent Barcelona 1-0 up.
The Catalans continued to dominate the pressure and possession creating a few half chances for Villa and Pedro, before Rooney, out of nowhere scored a wonderful goal. A poor throw in by Barcelona saw Messi easily dispossessed of the ball and Rooney playing a sublime one-two with first Carrick and then Giggs, before slotting home the ball past a helpless Valdes. Giggs looked to be slightly offside when the second ball was played to Rooney, regardless, it wasn't called and despite all the Barca posession the game was tied 1-1.
As the halftime whistle was blown, Barcelona had the edge in possession and chances. Valencia had an absolutely poor first half and Hernandez, one of the best players for Manchester this season, was very quite without being involved in many plays.
Barcelona on the other hand, had their main catalysts all involved, with Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro and Villa all actively contributing. Messi in particular looked actively involved as he nutmegged several united defenders and produced countless chances for Villa and Pedro.
After a few exchanges from the two sides at the start of the second half, the best player in the world, Messi, etched his name in the history books, scoring the go-ahead goal in the 54th minute.
Questionably gifted with time, space and little pressure from Manchester defenders Evra and Vidic, the Argentine wizard unleashed a low drive that curled away from Van Der Sar. Understandably, the Man United keeper was furious at his defenders for allowing the Barcelona sniper to shoot freely on goal. The Argentine hitman equalled Ruud Van Nistelroy's record for 12 goals in a Champions League campaign.
The second goal from their talisman was all it took for Barcelona to start pulling away as they began to absolutely dismantle Manchester and dominate possession and chances. Manchester looked completely deflated as they were forced to chase the ball and become spectators themselves for long periods during the second half.
In the 69th minute, a sensational David Villa curling effort put the nail in the coffin and ended the game as a contest.
The play began with Messi deep in the right side of Manchester's end dribbling past Nani, who was just substituted on. The phenom dribbled his way inside the Manchester box before attempting to lay the ball off for one of his teammates. A panic-stricken Nani, who had darted after Messi, ended up with the ball at his feet only to notoriously lay it off to David Villa.
Villa was waiting in the centre just outside the 18-yard box when he received the ill-timed pass. With a quick look toward goal, Villa sent in a curling effort in the top left corner of the goal for an absolute gem of a goal.
Which team will win the Champions League in 2012
The remainder of the game saw Barcelona almost toying with the Premier League champions as they continued to dictate play with their unrivaled passing game. A clearly frustrated and lacklustre Manchester could do nothing but watch the Barcelona magic at work, as they in turn looked like a defeated side.
The final whistle blew, signaling Barcelona champions for a fourth time in their history and the third time in five years! Manchester, for their part, were worthy finalists, but Barcelona were clearly the far superior team and deservedly won the game in decisive fashion.
Going forward into next year, based on the overwhelmingly dominant display and barring any significant injuries, Barcelona will undoubtedly be the early favourites to win the title again, becoming the first team in the modern era to win the trophy in consecutive seasons.