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On the other side of the ball was Wayne Rooney. The hard-nosed Englishman that has been in the press more than the highlights this season was in a position to make himself a hero in front of a national home crowd in many ways.
It was set to be a battle for the ages, a rematch from a final in 2009 that saw Manchester United shackled at all ends by a master class Barcelona side. A performance that saw Rooney, and his then counterpart Christiano Ronaldo, completely removed from the action as the Spanish giants decimated the English Champions.
This 2011 version of the Champions League Final now had the tables turned and it was now the English Champions that had their chance to make amends. Wayne Rooney now had the chance to take up the mantle of United and lift the team to the glory Ronaldo could not.
As the opening whistle blew and the Manchester giants took the opening kick off and took the attack to the Catalans. Rooney had a cross into the box within the first minute of the action and fed in another through ball to Javier "Chicharito," Hernandez, whose position in the starting eleven kick off a controversy of its own.
At the ninth minute it was reported that Dimitar Berbatov, United's leading scorer and the winner of the Premier League Golden Boot has left the match after not even having been named on the bench. At his age it appears that he will be moving on after his best season as a Red Devil as Sir Alex Ferguson appears possibly content with the pairing of Rooney and Hernandez for the future.
With the opening 10 minutes fooling many that Manchester United was going to truly come to life when they needed it to most, Barcelona began to take over control of the match. While Rooney had a great opening 10 minutes, so did Lionel Messi.
The Argentine had already began finding his way through the back line of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, and by the fifteenth minute that game was swinging into Barcelona's favor. By now the Blaugrana had amassed 111 completed passes to the Red Devils 51 and were already owning possession at 66%.
Messi had already created two shots on goal, a corner, and his disruption of the defense lead to Pedro Rodriguez missing a sitter served up by Dani Alves and David Villa.
The next 12 minutes were all Messi and company, Rooney had several cameos in the mix but his lack of really tracking back to help his already tiring midfield were already costing the team desperately and he was on the verge of being frozen out much like he was two years ago.
That 12-minute spell of Barcelona dominance led to Pedro Rodriguez opening the scoring as the goal that had been coming finally was notched home, leaving Edwin Van Der Sar helpless.
Statistically and physically the Spanish side was still in dominant form as the stats at the 13th minute showed them still holding 66 percent of the ball while now up to 265 completed passes over the English side's 100.
Rodriguez's goal brought some life to the Red Devils as they tried to fight back into the game and Rooney had a free kick cleared out int he 31st minute. Finally there was a break in the Barcelona back line, and the return pass of Javier Hernandez set up Wayne Rooney with the chance to stake his claim to a heroic opportunity, and he delivered.
Despite having literally no real chance to impact the game in the first thirty minutes, the one opening he had to put his name on the game was grabbed as he blasted home the game tying goal from about 14 yards. A powerful drive that left Victor Valdez wanting would give Manchester fans hope, at least for now.
It was Rooney's first goal against a Spanish team after 600 minutes of match time, and was also the last time you would really see anything from him int he first half.
Messi again asserted himself in the match and his combination play with Xavi Hernandez and Villa controlled the rest of the half.
The second half began much like the first. Rooney tried to get his squad going forward with a great little bit of attacking play for a few minutes that would only lead to pushing Messi and company into all out attack and control once more. The little Argentine ran rampant creating with everyone around him from Gerard Pique to Andres Iniesta, and the results would prove deadly for their English opponents.
As only few people could do so effectively, Lionel Messi erased the memory of Wayne Rooney's goal from the minds of all those in the stadium with a powerful placed shot from 25 yards that had eyes all the way to the back of the net.
Again the game was all Barcelona's to loose and they would continue to push for the final knife in the coffin. Rooney again had a small window of building play around the sixtieth minute with Hernandez but nothing came to fruition.
By now the Red Devils had only managed to get two shots on goal while the Spanish giants had taken 13, and the possession was still just as lopsided.
In true fashion for the match, one chance for Rooney and Manchester United to edge back was met with another furious ten minutes of Barcelona pressure that saw Messi denied his second goal on two occasions and eventually led to David Villa making it 3-1 at the 69th minute.
Once again Rooney tried to bring his squad back with a great curled effort that ended up a few rows deep in the stands, and his two other chances to make a difference in the next 10 minutes failed to do so.
After the third goal Barcelona wrapped up shop and just played the Red Devils to the whistle. Messi's goal and contribution had completely outweighed the efforts of Wayne Rooney. His constant movement and pestering of the United defense assisted in his own goal and the creation of the other two.
While Rooney made a valiant effort to overcome the failings of himself and his former teammate in the previous clash of these two titans. His goal certainly gave much weight to that attempt, but he still was not able to make enough of his prescience felt to truly damage the effect of a masterclass performance of Pep Guardiola's side.
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