TBILISI, Georgia (AP):Lionel Messi scored twice and set up the winning goal as Barcelona started the season in dramatic style by beating Sevilla 5-4 after extra time to lift the UEFA Super Cup yesterday.The action-packed, all-Spanish match was won when Pedro, linked by British media with a move to Manchester United, scored from close range after a shot by Messi rebounded in the 115th minute.In the final seconds of extra time, Sevilla defender Adil Rami had a golden chance to send the match to penalties, but missed an open goal from close range.Earlier, Sevilla had battled back from 4-1 down to 4-4 as Barcelona’s fitness was tested in their first competitive match of the season – Europe’s curtain-raiser between the winners of the Champions League and the second-tier Europa League.European champions Barcelona went behind three minutes into the game when Ever Banega scored from a free kick from the edge of the penalty area.Messi curled two direct free kicks past Sevilla goalkeeper Beto in the seventh and 16th minutes and was a constant threat in attack throughout the first half, though he made less of a mark after the break.Barcelona’s third came shortly before half-time when Luis Suarez pounced on the rebound after his shot was parried by Beto and crossed for Rafinha to score.Suarez grabbed a goal in the 52nd minute following a poor pass by Sevilla defender Benoit Tremoulinas. The French left back gave the ball away to Sergio Busquets, who played in Suarez to apply a calm finish. However, it was cancelled out almost immediately when the unmarked JosÈ Antonio Reyes ran in at the far post to steer home a cross by Vitolo.PENALTY KICKVitolo was again in the thick of the action a quarter of an hour later as he tried to reach a cross from Tremoulinas, but was fouled by Jeremy Mathieu, playing at left back for the injured Jordi Alba. The resulting penalty was hit hard and left by Kevin Gameiro.Sevilla pulled level when debutant Yevhen Konoplyanka slotted in from close range off a low pass from Ciro Immobile in the 81st minute.Having won the Spanish league and cup titles, along with the Champions League, lifting the Super Cup keeps Barcelona on track to win six trophies in a calendar year, a feat the club last achieved under Pep Guardiola in 2009.Next up is the Spanish Super Cup against Atheltic Bilbao on Friday and Monday, before the Club World Cup in December.
The tough tackling midfielder’s contract expires in the summer and he has shown no indication that he is willing to extend his stay at San Siro beyond the end of the season. Available on a free, United would be foolish not to take up the opportunity to sign the Premier League experienced Dutchman this summer if he is, as reported, keen to make the move. De Jong spent three-and-a-half seasons with City before signing for Milan in 2012 and his tenacity and energy in the middle of the park would improve this dour United side. An average of 2.3 tackles per Serie A match also indicates how he does not shirk from the physical battle on the pitch. Having previously worked under Van Gaal, the United boss knows exactly what he would be getting with De Jong. The battling Netherlands international has continuously excelled in an underwhelming Milan side and few would begrudge him a move to a team that harbours Champions League aspirations. Considering he is available on a free in the summer, and with no confirmation over whether United are prepared to extend Michael Carrick’s stay at Old Trafford, the club would be wise to seal an agreement with De Jong ahead of the end of the season.You can follow all the scores, statistics and live player and team ratings with the new free-to-download WhoScored iOS app With Manchester United reportedly interested in a move for a former Manchester City star, football statistics experts WhoScored.com analyse the merits of Nigel de Jong, For more Manchester United stats, make sure you check out WhoScored’s Man United page.Manchester United’s 2-1 loss at Swansea City was only their second in their last 20 competitive fixtures. However, defeat at the Liberty Stadium, coupled with results elsewhere, blew the race for a top four finish wide open. Now only four points separate Arsenal in third and north London rivals Spurs in seventh. United’s ability to grind out results, though, means they remain one of the favourites to secure a Champions League berth next season. Perhaps De Jong’s best asset is his reading of the game having developed a WhoScored.com strength of ‘ball interception’. Only two players are averaging more interceptions per game in Serie A this season than De Jong (3.7), a return that is better than every United player. His ability to effectively shield the defence not only allows those ahead of him to press forward, but it means the 30-year-old is capable of instigating attacks once he wins the ball back for his side. Could AC Milan’s Nigel de Jong be Man United-bound? Averaging more passes per league game (60.4) than any other current Milan player with an impressive success rate (89.4 per cent) clearly highlights how effective a holding midfielder De Jong is. The player shielding the backline is required to not only win the ball for his side, but recycle possession efficiently, which De Jong does to a very high standard. 1 With the creative personnel on show at Old Trafford, these two strengths would allow the likes of Ander Herrera, Ángel Di María and Wayne Rooney, among others, to exert themselves further forward, safe in the knowledge that De Jong is covering for the more offensive performers. With one eye on a possible return to Europe’s elite competition, Louis van Gaal’s side have supposedly begun to prepare for the upcoming campaign already. Reports in Italy suggest United have agreed personal terms with Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong. The former Manchester City ace, who worked under Van Gaal at the 2014 World Cup, has impressed for Milan this season. Only Jérémy Menez (7.27) has gained a better WhoScored.com rating than De Jong (7.22) of all Rossoneri players to register at least 300 minutes of Serie A action this term.