Lionel Messi scored two goals to help Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-0 on Tuesday and reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in four seasons with a 4-0 aggregate score.
The Red Devils arrived at Camp Nou hoping to take inspiration from its Champions League final victory twenty years ago, when current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer capped a comeback against Bayern Munich by scoring the winner in injury time. But the Argentine magician showed that past glories mean very little when he is playing at his best.
The 31-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner was largely subdued in Barcelona's 1-0 victory at Old Trafford last Wednesday and had his nose bloodied after being caught unintentionally by Chris Smalling's flailing arm.
But he doubled Barcelona's advantage in the tie with a left-footed strike from the edge of the area that has so often become his hallmark, although his second strike arrived following a major blunder from United goalkeeper David De Gea.
"The image (we gave) was spectacular. This is who we are," Messi told the reporters. "I was fortunate the first went in, I struck it hard and just inside the post. I needed a little more luck on the second. The important thing is that we achieved our goal. We have taken one more step (to the title)."
Barca was in cruise control in the second half, and Coutinho quashed any hopes of a United fightback by curling an unstoppable effort into the top corner.
There was very nearly a consolation late on for Alexis Sanchez, returning off the bench for his first appearance since March 2, but the former Barcelona forward saw his header saved superbly by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
For United, who were looking to reach the last four in this competition for the first time since 2011, their attentions now turn to the Premier League and a battle to finish in the top four.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on BT Sport, "I have to say Lionel Messi is top quality and he was the difference of course. At 2-0 it was game over.
"He's different class, he and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best players of the last decade, everyone agrees on that one. Messi showed his quality.
"We have to aspire to get to that level of Barcelona, we can get there but we have loads of work to do. If we want to get back to Man Utd's true level, true traditions, we have to challenge Barcelona."
Lionel Messi has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season - 10 more than any other player in the top five European leagues.
About the Author
Jeet Ghosh is a Football Journalist, living and working in Kolkata with 7 years of experience. He has also worked with Sportzwiki and India.com. Jeet is a sports lover but has special liking for football. He follows the football league’s around the world and is somewhat partial towards Real Madrid.