Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo admitted Manchester United were beaten by the better side in Rome last night. United's hopes of becoming the first side to successfully defend the trophy since it was rebranded as the Champions League in 1992 were crushed by Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico. Sir Alex Ferguson's men simply had no answer to the Catalans' class once Samuel Eto'o had prodded them into a 10th-minute lead. The margin of victory could have been even greater than Lionel Messi's second-half effort helped them achieve, with Rooney conceding the final 2-0 score line did not flatter Barca. "It is a big disappointment but Barcelona were the better team," said Rooney. "Barcelona scored two good goals and unfortunately for us, they came at good times. That made it very difficult for us." United had no answer to the craft of Xavi, the guile of Messi and the direct running of Eto'o and Thierry Henry, who was making amends for defeat in the final against Barcelona with Arsenal four years ago.
But it was Andres Iniesta who ran the show as far as Rooney was concerned. "Barcelona are a brilliant team and in my opinion Andres Iniesta is the best player in the world," he said. "Against a team like that if you don't take your chances, they will punish you. That is what happened. "It is very disappointing and the feeling at the moment is not a good one. We are hurting, but we have to forget it and look forward to next season." Having clinched a third successive Premier League title and the Club World Cup and Carling Cup in addition to becoming the first side since 1997 to reach the final a year after winning the Champions League, United can still take plenty of positives out of their distress.
However, for the likes of Ronaldo, defeat left a bitter taste. "This is one of the biggest disappointments of my career," he said. "We were always confident before the game but unfortunately we couldn't do it." Speculation is now bound to surface once more about whether the 24-year-old has played his final game for the Old Trafford outfit. It was not a subject up for discussion as Ronaldo assessed the defeat. "It is always bad when you lose a final," said Ronaldo, "but we didn't play well. We did OK in the first 10 minutes but you have to say Barcelona deserved to win." The win means Barcelona will be Europe's representative in the Fifa Club World Cup to be played in Abu Dhabi in December.
* PA Sport