Ferguson says: No one has given us a hiding like that

United manager says his side were 'mesmerised by best team we've ever played'

No excuses, no complaints. Manchester United were in agreement they had been beaten by a better team, indeed, a great team, but true to character Sir Alex Ferguson said this presented a challenge which he would not shirk from attacking.

"They are the best team we've played in my time," he said. "We knew we were against a good team and we planned as well as we could, but they do mesmerise you with their passing and we never really controlled Messi – but many people have said that. With the lifeline of Wayne Rooney's goal I expected to do better in the second half, but what will be will be. We have had a great season in many ways, it is just disappointing it has ended on this note.

"We tried to play the way we normally play, it is alien to us to man-mark, but it wasn't good enough on the night. We know that and we can step forward from here. This may be the stepping stone as with a few years ago when they beat us 4-0 [in 1994-95]. We can improve, next season we will improve even more. It is a challenge to match them and you should not be afraid of a challenge.

"It is not easy when you have been well beaten, no one has given us a hiding like that. It is a great moment for them, they deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football. Great teams do go in cycles and the cycle they are in now, there is no question they are the best in Europe. They have the philosophy, how long can they continue? It is always difficult to find players like Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, but they are enjoying the moment they have just now."

Ferguson said Dimitar Berbatov, contrary to rumours, had not left the ground and added that he sympathised with the Bulgarian's disappointment at not even making the substitute's bench. "Picking my team I found easy, but picking my subs I found very difficult. I tended to overload in the midfield positions because I thought that was the most important because of the way Barça play and the work you need in the central area.

"I only picked one defender [on the bench] – I gambled a bit – to give me options in midfield. It came down to a choice between Michael Owen and Berbatov and if you are looking for somebody to nick a goal in the last minutes, Owen is the man."

Ferguson's players were equally complimentary of their opponents. "You have got to give them credit," said Rio Ferdinand. "On the day they were the better team, they are deserved winners."

"They are very good, you have to try and score the first goal and we didn't do that," said goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. "They had the better chances and we made one or two mistakes and they punish you." Did he make a mistake with Messi's goal? "I thought I was positioned well. He tends to curl it into the far post, but he didn't."

Javier Mascherano, of Barcelona, but previously of Liverpool, had a word for his former club. "I know the Liverpool supporters were a little bit sad with me after my exit [but] this is for them as well." The Argentinian (right) added: "We are really happy, we beat a fantastic team and played in the way we know to play. To win the Champions' League, for any footballer, is the top title."

The Spanish champions threw their coach Pep Guardiola in the air and cut out the net from one of the Wembley goals as they celebrated winning a fourth European Cup. "The people watching could see that we not only won but we played a brilliant match," Guardiola said. The Barça manager said they were thrilled to have lived up to expectations and to win a trophy that Guardiola said required "a hell of a lot of effort".

"I feel privileged," he added. "The way we have won is what I am most proud of. We want to play football. Lionel is the best player I have seen and probably the best I will ever see."

Guardiola was able to bring on regular captain Carles Puyol for the last few moments, giving the injury-hit defender the chance to play a part in a memorable triumph. But in a gesture symbolising Barcelona's team ethic, Puyol handed the armband over to Eric Abidal – whose place in the team had been in doubt after he had surgery this season to remove a liver tumour – and the France defender lifted the famous trophy.

"Players are human beings," Guardiola said. "Carles has made a great gesture and it has made us stronger."

David Villa, who scored with a lovely curler to give Barcelona an unassailable 3-1 lead, summed up the night: "We knew the potential we had and we just had to make the most of it. It's been a great deal of work... To be happier right now would be impossible."

Timeline

16 min Barcelona produce first shot, Pedro firing wide from a cross from the right by Xavi.

19 min Villa snapshot from 25 yards on the right, wide of the far post.

21 min Barça dominance marked by another Villa shot from right side of the penalty area. Van der Sar stretches to hold on.

22 min Sensational tackle by Vidic stops Messi in full flight in United's area.

27 min Barcelona 1-0. Inevitable goal. Xavi in central midfield flicks pass into right side of the penalty area for Pedro to beat Van der Sar at his near post.

34 min 1-1. Fabio to Rooney after throw-in on the right, to Carrick, who passes into Rooney's stride. On to Giggs on right side of area and Rooney sweeps home return pass from 15 yards.

44 min Wonderful Barça counter-attack. Messi bursts through the middle and feeds Villa but, sliding in, just fails to reach the return pass.

54 min Barcelona 2-1. Messi, unmarked in the right channel, jinks left as United back off and beats Van der Sar low with his left foot from 25 yards.

64 min Van der Sar at full stretch to palm away 27-yard shot by Xavi.

69 min Barcelona 3-1. Busquets feeds Villa to curl in artful 15-yard shot.

84 min Nani fed by Rooney, shoots wide with left foot from 20 yards.

90+2 min Afellay marks arrival from bench with shot, held by Van der Sar.



Quotes

'Barcelona played very well, obviously for the first 50 minutes they were trying to find a way. They did a good job.'

Nemanja Vidic

'In the Barcelona team, seven of them have come up through the club. They love their club. You don't see too many players with that much talent working that hard'

Gary Neville

'We are disappointed but Barcelona played some good football and they had more chances than we did'

Vidic

'We gave it a better shot than last time, even though the scoreline was 3-1. We got ourselves to 1-1 and thought we had a good chance. We got hit with a bit of a sucker punch. I think two of their goals were preventable.'

Rio Ferdinand

'I know Liverpool fans were a little bit sad about my exit [at the end of last season] but this victory was for them too'

Javier Mascherano

'They have a system they work to as individuals and collectively. We had a game plan we thought could beat them but it wasn't to be'

Ferdinand

'Manchester United are a very good team who won the Premier League with something to spare, and this Barcelona team made them look ordinary'

Graeme Souness



History: Barca's European Cup final victories

1992, Wembley: beat Sampdoria 1-0

Johan Cruyff led Barcelona to their first European title as Ronald Koeman struck a trademark free-kick nine minutes from the end of extra time. Current manager Pep Guardiola featured for Barcelona.

2006, Paris: beat Arsenal 2-1

Frank Rijkaard became the fifth man to win the European Cup as player and manager as his side scored twice in the last 15 minutes. Down to 10 men after the dismissal of Jens Lehmann, Arsenal led for much of the game from Sol Campbell's header, but Henrik Larsson swung the game, setting up both goals.

2009, Rome: beat Manchester United 2-0

A year after beating Chelsea in Moscow, United failed to become the first team to retain the trophy in its latter-day format. Barça produced a masterclass to complete a historic Treble. Samuel Eto'o put the Catalans ahead early on before a fine looping header from Lionel Messi.

European Cup wins 9 Real Madrid; 7 Milan; 5 Liverpool; 4 Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich; 3 Internazionale, Manchester United; 2 Benfica, Juventus, Nottingham Forest, Porto

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