Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand knows a thing or two about playing against Lionel Messi having been defeeated twice by the Argentine in the Champions League final. In his opinion, the injury that defender Chris Smalling inflicted on Messi in the first leg of the quarterfinal, worked against the English club.
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.
Chris Smalling “woke the beast up” in Lionel Messi by getting physical with the Barcelona superstar, Ferdinand claimed. Messi scored a scorcher of a goal after United had started well at the Camp Nou. The Argentine taunted United all game, running rings around the defenders.
“He just comes alive he really does. One of the best live performances I have ever seen,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.
“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.””
For Rio however, he felt that an English team could win the Champions League this year. Manchester City and Tottenham will face tonight while Liverpool will face Barcelona if they go through against Porto.
"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’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."