Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson explains how Chris Smalling CAN stop Lionel Messi at Old Trafford
After inexplicably finishing fifth in the Ballon d’Or standings, Lionel Messi has seemingly decided to take out his anger on every defender who dares to try to stop him this season.
The Argentine is dragging Barcelona towards the La Liga title and is preparing to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
11 years ago, the Catalan side were knocked out of the Champions League by the Red Devils courtesy of a Paul Scholes wondergoal and fans can be sure Messi will be keen to exact his vengeance.
Chris Smalling will be the man tasked with stopping the 31-year-old and, although he is confident of carrying out his task, the statistics suggest that confidence is misplaced.
Simply put, Messi has been untouchable this season.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored eight goals in six Champions League games this season and assured fans at the start of the season Barca would do everything to wrestle the European cup back from rivals Real Madrid.
LIONEL MESSI’S STATS THIS SEASON
Not bad for the world’s fifth-best player…
- 40 appearances
- 43 goals
- 21 assists
- 7 goals from free kicks
- 4 hat-tricks
- Top scorer in La Liga
- Top scorer in UCL
- Most assists in La Liga
Sir Alex Ferguson tried, and failed, to stop Messi in the 2009 and 2011 Finals, but revealed the almost barbaric methods he would now employ to stop the man hailed as the best ever.
“You need centre-backs who are prepared to drop right on top of Messi and not worry about what is happening behind them,” the Scot wrote in his 2013 autobiography.
“He will drift away to the side. That’s fine. He’s less of a threat on the side than he is through the centre.
“After the inquest I told myself: ‘When we play Barcelona next time in a Champions League final, I would have Jones and Smalling, or Smalling and Evans, right on top of Messi. I wasn’t going to let him torture us again.”
While this tactic may seem somewhat archaic, the 77-year-old employed Park Ji-Sung to perform a similar task on Andrea Pirlo.
The Premier League side travelled to the San Siro in March 2010 knowing they would have to stop the Italian to ensure they progressed.
And, according to the man himself, it was executed perfectly as the midfielder did not get a sniff and United won 7-2 on aggregate.
Pirlo revealed in his autobiography: “Even Sir Alex Ferguson, the purple-nosed manager who turned Manchester United into a fearsome battleship, couldn’t resist the temptation.
MOST READ IN FOOTBALL
“He’s a man without blemish, but he ruined that purity just for a moment when it came to me. A fleeting shabbiness came over the legend that night.
“At Milan, he unleashed Park Ji-sung to shadow me. He rushed about at the speed of an electron. He’d fling himself at me, his hands all over my back, trying to intimidate me. He’d look at the ball and not know what it was for.
“They’d programmed him to stop me. His devotion to the task was almost touching. Even though he was a famous player, he consented to being used as a guard dog.”
Source: SportsLatest TS