United take on the European champions in Santa Clara, California, on July 25. Tickets for the showpiece friendly have already been sold out and Smalling can’t wait to test himself against the man widely considered as the greatest footballer on the planet.
The England international, who signed a new contract with the Red Devils in April following a string of impressive performances, also has a plan to stop the four-time Ballon d’Or winner - but admits he’ll need the help of all his teammates for it to work.
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“Messi is a player who wants that space and you need to get tight to him to stop him turning,” Smalling told Manchester United’s official website. “I think the whole team has to work together, not just the back four. If there’s one person out of sync, he’ll find that vulnerability and space.”
Indeed, Manchester United have been punished by Messi in two of the biggest matches in their history: the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals.
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Messi scored in both finals - a header in Rome, and a shot from outside the box at Wembley - and few would bet against the Argentina international scoring at least one goal against Smalling and co. next month.
Smalling relishing Zlatan battle
Smalling is also looking forward to going up against Paris Saint-Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the world-renowned 33-year-old Sweden international.
The United defender admits he may need to take a different approach with Zlatan due to his superior strength.
“Ibrahimovic, on the other hand, wants to feel you and if you get too tight,” Smalling explained, “he’ll roll you as he’s a really strong guy.”
Manchester United begin their pre-season tour of the United States against Club America in Seattle on July 18, before travelling to Berkeley and taking on San Jose Earthquakes four days later.
The match against PSG in Chicago takes place four days after the match against Barça, which will hand Manchester United’s new signings a chance to test themselves against some of the best players in the world.
United have only completed one signing so far this summer - Memphis Depay, from PSV Eindhoven - but that number is expected to rise before the Red Devils’ first pre-season match against Club America.
Louis van Gaal’s side are likely to play another friendly between the PSG match and their first Premier League fixture of the season against Tottenham on August 8, but as things stand no game has been scheduled.
Manchester United fans: are you confident Chris Smalling will keep Lionel Messi quiet next month? Have your say by leaving a comment in the box below!