Man Utd crash out of Champions League as Lionel Messi inspires Barcelona to Nou Camp rout

Man Utd crash out of Champions League as Lionel Messi inspires Barcelona to Nou Camp rout

Instead of Tiger Woods red, United were decked out in pink but there was nothing pretty or dashing about them. Instead this was a shocking and sobering night in the Nou Camp that saw their brave European dream turn into a nightmare.

United were forced to bow to the brilliance of Lionel Messi from start to finish – and this Spanish spanking was a serious reality check for boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

If United want to mix it with the big boys of Europe then they are woefully short of having the side to do it.

Despite a bright start, United were outclassed in all departments as Barca cruised into the semi-finals, leaving Solskjaer’s men with nothing left to do this season but try to make sure they are somehow in this competition next time round.

Messi scored twice before half time and Philippe Coutinho added a stunning third as Barca dished out United’s heaviest ever defeat over two legs in the knockout stages.

Sir Alex Ferguson sat in the stands, returning to the scene of his greatest triumph in 1999 no doubt hoping for a similar miracle this time round.

But in this cathedral of football, all Fergie and the rest of United’s travelling entourage could do was pray.

That’s because the size of the task facing Solskjaer, who made three changes that included the surprise recall of Phil Jones, had been gigantic from the start.

Barcelona vs Man Utd

Lionel Messi (2) and Philippe Coutinho scored Barcelona’s goals against Man Utd (Pic: EPA)

Barca had never lost at home to United in four previous meetings and had gone 30 European ties unbeaten at the Nou Camp – the longest run of any club in the competition.

The Spaniards had not conceded more than one goal in any of those 30 matches and just for good measure, Messi loved nothing more than facing English opponents.

The Argentine genius had scored 22 goals in 31 games against Premier League rivals before last night and was scenting blood again considering Chris Smalling had given him a bloodied nose in the first tie at Old Trafford last week.

That was like poking a lion with a big stick and the brutal truth was United were in serious danger of getting shown up.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi fires Barcelona into the lead (Pic: REUTERS)

Yet despite everything being against them, United could have been 2-0 up inside the opening two minutes.

Marcus Rashford found himself clean through but saw his shot skim the crossbar, before Rashford himself set-up Scott McTominay, but his control betrayed him at the crucial moment with the goal at his mercy.

Barca were awarded a penalty then denied it by VAR on 10 minutes when replays showed Fred had won the ball cleanly from Ivan Rakitic, before Rashford bust up the other end but shot straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

It had been a thrilling start and United were on top, but normal service was resumed on 15 minutes when Messi fired Barca ahead with trademark brilliance.

Ashley Young tried to be too clever and lost possession, allowing Messi to go round Fred with ease before burying a clinical shot into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho celebrates his goal (Pic: REUTERS)

Young’s mistake was bad, but David De Gea’s was shambolic four minutes later when he allowed a tame Messi shot to go straight underneath him to make it 2-0.

That was that. The game was over as a contest and all that remained was for United to try and limit the damage.

Somehow De Gea denied Sergi Roberto on the stroke of half time after Messi had run at Jones and beat him three times before nutmegging the England international.

Young then stopped Messi’s hat-trick with an outstretched foot but Barca were toying with their opponents, like a cat a mauling a dead mouse and Coutinho added a third on the hour with a sublime strike.

It was another night to remember in Catalonia for United, just for all the wrong reasons.

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