Manchester United’s Champions League run ended in the quarter-finals as Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a crushing victory in the second leg at the Nou Camp.
United, trailing 1-0 from the first leg, started brightly but were then undone by brilliance from Messi and a glaring mistake from goalkeeper David de Gea.
Messi put the hosts ahead with a fine curling effort from 20 yards in the 16th minute and four minutes later De Gea let a weaker shot from the edge of the area squirm under his body for the Argentine’s second.
Philippe Coutinho added a third for Barca in the 61st minute, curling a stunning effort into the top corner from distance.
United hit the bar inside the first 40 seconds through Marcus Rashford but were dominated after going behind.
Alexis Sanchez’s diving header, which was spectacularly saved by Barca goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen in the 90th minute, was as close at the visitors came in the second half.
It was a sobering night for United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the ground where he scored his most famous goal, the stoppage-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final.
Barca now meet either Liverpool or Porto in the semi-final, with the Reds taking a 2-0 lead into Wednesday’s second leg.
Mistakes costly but United outclassed
United were always facing a difficult task as they attempted overturn a first-leg deficit for the second round in a row.
Just like in the last 16, when they stunned Paris St-Germain at the Parc de Prances, United started the game fast, looked dangerous on the counter-attack and had opportunities – a poor touch from Scott McTominay in the penalty area saw a chance wasted shortly after Rashford’s first-minute chance.
That start raised hope of an improbable comeback but United’s chances were all-but ended when they allowed Messi to score twice in four first-half minutes.
The Argentine dazzled for his first goal with a nutmeg of United midfielder Fred and a perfect finish into the bottom corner but Ashley Young gave the ball away in the left-back position and then the visitors defence backed off rather than stopping the shot.
Then De Gea, so often United’s star player, made a huge mistake by allowing Messi’s tame shot from 20 yards to slip under his body and in.
Unlike in the first leg, Barcelona looked as though they could could cut their opponents open.
Messi was at the centre of that attacking threat with Jordi Alba also marauding forward from left-back and the Barcelona midfield outplaying their United counterparts, both in terms of their control of the ball and pressing to win it back.
No United player made any real impact on a match that proved how great a rebuild is required under Solskjaer if they are to compete with the European elite.
More to follow