“I feel privileged,’’ Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. “ “Lionel is the best player I have seen and probably the best I will ever see.’’
Messi put Barcelona ahead to stay with his 53d goal and helped create another score to give the Spanish league champion breathing room.
Barcelona dominated play at Wembley Stadium with its trademark one-touch passing, but it needed the Argentine striker to conjure a 54th-minute solo strike from the edge of the penalty area to take the lead for the second time.
There seemed to be no space as Messi was tracked by fullback Patrice Evra. But the two-time world player of the year spotted a gap between the central defenders and hit a shot down the middle, beating goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
Messi added a fake and run that led to David Villa taking possession on the edge of the area. From there, the striker curled a shot into the top corner.
“They do mesmerize you with their passing and we never really did control Messi,’’ United manager Alex Ferguson said. “But many people have said that.
“In my time as manager, it’s the best team I’ve faced.’’
With Pedro Rodriguez scoring the opening goal midway through the first half on an imaginative through ball from Xavi Hernandez, the win was as comprehensive as Barcelona’s 2-0 victory over United in the final two years ago.
Wayne Rooney’s goal in the 34th minute left it tied at 1 at halftime.
MLS Union 6, Toronto FC 2 — Justin Mapp and Danny Mwanga scored two goals apiece as Philadelphia routed host Toronto in front of 20,122 at BMO Field.
Gabriel Farfan and Kyle Nakazawa also scored for the Union, whose six goals marked a franchise-worst for Toronto.
Red Bulls 1, Whitecaps 1 — Luke Rodgers scored in the 34th minute to help visiting New York tie expansion Vancouver in front of a capacity crowd of 21,000.
Eric Hassli scored for Vancouver, which is winless in its last 11 games.
Chivas USA 3, Crew 3 — Andres Mendoza had two goals before teammate Emmanuel Ekpo scored the equalizer in the 64th minute as host Columbus rallied three times to tie Chivas.
FC Dallas 2, Dynamo 2 — Colin Clark came on in the 66th minute, then scored the tying goal in the 87th — courtesy of midfielder Brad Davis’s league-leading eighth assist — to lead host Houston to a draw.
Earthquakes 2, Fire 2 — Defender Cory Gibbs’s goal off a cross from Baggio Husidic in the 80th minute gave host Chicago a tie with San Jose. The result extended the Fire’s MLS winless streak to nine games, matching the club record set in 2004.
Sounders 2, Real Salt Lake 1 — In Sandy, Utah, Patrick Ianni and Lamar Neagle scored in the second half as Seattle ended Real Salt Lake’s unbeaten streak against MLS opponents at Rio Tinto Stadium at 29 games.
Sporting K.C. 1, Rapids 1 — Ryan Smith’s first goal of the season helped visiting Kansas City draw with Colorado.
Sky Blue 2, Breakers 1 — Second-half sub Therese Sjogran scored in the 58th minute, then assisted on Carolyn Blank’s go-ahead goal in the 88th as host Sky Blue beat Boston in Piscataway, N.J.
The Breakers (2-5-1) scored first, as Kelley O’Hara connected for her second of the year in the 50th minute.
MagicJack 4, Beat 0 — Abby Wambach scored three times to lead the hosts in Boca Raton, Fla.