Wayne Rooney once kept the match ball from a game Manchester United didn’t win as he felt like he’d been part of ‘something special’ despite the result.
Rooney is one of the most decorated players in United history, winning 13 major honours during his time with the club.
He did lose three finals as a United player, the 2005 FA Cup final to Arsenal and the Champions League final to Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.
It was that second game with Barcelona at Wembley Stadium which left Rooney awestruck. The Catalan giants, spearheaded by Lionel Messi in attack, swept United away on home soil with a 3-1 victory.
Rooney explained in his column for The Times: “Only once in my career did I go home with the match ball from a game where I wasn’t given it for scoring a hat-trick.
“That was the 2011 Champions League final, when Barcelona beat Manchester United with one of the best team performances I’ve ever seen.”
Pedro, Messi and David Villa were all on the scoresheet as Pep Guardiola bested Sir Alex Ferguson for the second time in three years.
Rooney, who did equalise for United in the first half, ended up asking the Barcelona trio to sign his match ball.
The England legend continued: “At the end, I grabbed the ball and sought out Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro — Barcelona’s scorers.
“I got them to sign it and, as the scorer of United’s goal, put my own signature on it too. I still have the ball in my house.
“Why would I do something like that? We’d lost a final and I was gutted but I also had this sense of having been part of something special.
“It was a feeling that I had just shared a pitch with some of the greatest players who ever played. Barcelona were incredible and Messi was the catalyst for all of it.”
Messi officially completed football on Sunday evening after lifting the World Cup for the first time in his career.
The 35-year-old helped Argentina to a 4-2 penalty shootout win over France after a dramatic 3-3 draw in regulation time.
Rooney concluded: “In 2012, I wrote the following on Twitter: ‘Messi is a joke. For me the best ever.’
“On Wednesday morning, after watching him lead Argentina to the World Cup final with a masterclass against Croatia, I retweeted it with the words: ‘Nothing has changed.'”