A cacophony of noise greeted both sets of players at the Camp Nou, with Manchester United taking the initiative from the whistle. Marcus Rashford and Luis Suárez had already exchanged chances in the opening five minutes before the game settled into a familiar pattern.
Barça continued to control possession and the rhythm of the game, rarely allowing United a sight of goal. It was the blaugrana that finished the half the stronger and on the attack, with De Gea somehow keeping out a point-blank Sergi Roberto shot to redeem his earlier error.
But for an Ashley Young block soon after the restart, Messi might well have had a hat-trick. The blaugrana pressed high and closed down the spaces that United were hoping to expose.
By the hour mark, much of the game was concentrated in the central areas, the hosts content to bide their time whilst ensuring that the visitors covered every blade of grass in order to win the ball back.
Philippe Coutinho then killed off the tie as a contest when he unleashed a rocket into the top corner that De Gea could do nothing about (min 61, 3-0).
The best that United could muster in the last half hour was a long-range effort from Jesse Lingard that was high and wide of Marc-André ter Stegen’s goal, and a flying header in the last minute from Alexis Sánchez, that was expertly saved by the German.