Barcelona vs Manchester United: Chris Smalling ‘woke the beast up’ in Lionel Messi, claims Rio Ferdinand

Chris Smalling “woke the beast up” in Lionel Messi by getting physical with the Barcelona superstar, claims Rio Ferdinand. 

The Manchester United defender made some aggressive challenges on the Argentine forward in the first leg, leaving him with a bleeding nose. 

But Messi had the last laugh, shining in the second leg in a one-sided victory, including two goals to seal a 4-0 aggregate victory against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. 

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And Ferdinand insists Smalling’s tactics worked against United, fuelling Messi to deliver an incredible performance to end their Champions League hopes. 

“He just comes alive he really does. One of the best live performances I have ever seen,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.


Player ratings: Barcelona vs Manchester United





1/25 Player ratings: Barcelona vs Manchester United

2/25 Barcelona

3/25 Marc-Andre Ter Stegen – 7 out of 10

4/25 Sergi Roberto – 7

5/25 Gerard Pique – 7

6/25 Clement Lenglet – 7

7/25 Jordi Alba – 8

8/25 Sergio Busquets – 7

9/25 Arthur – 7

10/25 Ivan Rakitic – 7

11/25 Lionel Messi – 9

12/25 Luis Suarez – 7

13/25 Philippe Coutinho – 8

14/25 Manchester United

15/25 David De Gea – 5

16/25 Victor Lindelof – 6

17/25 Chris Smalling – 6

18/25 Phil Jones – 5

19/25 Ashley Young – 4

20/25 Scott McTominay – 6

21/25 Fred – 5

22/25 Jesse Lingard – 6

23/25 Paul Pogba – 5

24/25 Marcus Rashford – 6

25/25 Anthony Martial – 6

1/25 Player ratings: Barcelona vs Manchester United

2/25 Barcelona

3/25 Marc-Andre Ter Stegen – 7 out of 10

4/25 Sergi Roberto – 7

5/25 Gerard Pique – 7

6/25 Clement Lenglet – 7

7/25 Jordi Alba – 8

8/25 Sergio Busquets – 7

9/25 Arthur – 7

10/25 Ivan Rakitic – 7

11/25 Lionel Messi – 9

12/25 Luis Suarez – 7

13/25 Philippe Coutinho – 8

14/25 Manchester United

15/25 David De Gea – 5

16/25 Victor Lindelof – 6

17/25 Chris Smalling – 6

18/25 Phil Jones – 5

19/25 Ashley Young – 4

20/25 Scott McTominay – 6

21/25 Fred – 5

22/25 Jesse Lingard – 6

23/25 Paul Pogba – 5

24/25 Marcus Rashford – 6

25/25 Anthony Martial – 6

“Smalling smashed him in the first game, it is probably the worst thing that could have happened. He woke the beast up.

“A player of this ability, sometimes you just have to say he is too good. Just to be here… there will be people in this stadium who can say: “I was there to see Messi.””

Ferdinand also tipped Liverpool to win the Champions League, and believes the Reds would have taken advantage of the early pressure United enjoyed at the Nou Camp on Tuesday. 

“I think [Jurgen] Klopp will look at those first ten minutes [of United against Barcelona] in this game today because, listen, if [Sadio] Mane, [Mohamed] Salah and [Roberto] Firmino go through there I’m expecting a different turnout on those occasions,” he added.

“I think they score those chances. ‘I think that game could be set up perfectly for Liverpool because if they play on the counter-attack, they’re an energetic team, they have a physicality which is different to this Man United team.

“I think they’ll cause more problems to this Barcelona team. But, saying that, they’ve got Messi and how you prepare for him… we don’t know.

“I think an English team will win it this year. I think Liverpool will win it this year.”

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