Paul Scholes: The 'simple' plan Man Utd's players used to stop Messi in 2008

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

Paul Scholes played with and against some of football's greatest ever players throughout his 19 years at Manchester United.

But ask him to name THE greatest he's shared a pitch with and the 42-year-old won't need a second thought.

Speaking in 2015, Scholes unequivocally named Barcelona's Lionel Messi as the best to have ever played the game, having faced him four times over his career.

"I think about the great players with whom I have shared a pitch: Eric Cantona, Zinedine Zidane, [Andrea] Pirlo, Xavi [and] Cristiano Ronaldo.

"And the greatest of them all is Messi."

Scholes has openly admitted that he tried to avoid Messi on the football pitch to save himself from being humiliated by the Argentina international.

"You think you have an eye on him and then - blink - he has gone, only to reappear somewhere else in space, with the ball," he added.

"When you try to face up to him and make a tackle you know what it is he is going to do with the ball. The problem is staying with him."

Only once did Scholes taste victory over Messi and Barcelona, in the 2008 Champions League semi-final second leg at Old Trafford.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

It was the former midfielder's goal that separated the two sides to earn United a place in the final, with the first leg at the Camp Nou ending 0-0.

United neutralised Messi across both legs and it's because of a "simple" plan that Sir Alex Ferguson's players devised before the semi-final clash.

Take it away, Scholesy.

"I have never seen a United performance with such a high level of concentration as when we beat Barcelona at Old Trafford," he wrote two years ago for the Independent.

Manchester United v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

"For every second of that game, and the first leg at the Nou Camp, we had to be aware of our positioning, of the dangers they posed and our shape as a team as a whole.

"We spent the whole week working on it with Sir Alex and the staff. We knew exactly what we should be doing at all times. Then we had to do it over two games.

"There was never any specific plan to deal with Messi, simply that whoever was nearest picked him up. Rio Ferdinand had two great games against him in 2008."

Here lies the potential secret to coping with Messi. United's players communicated to make sure at least one player was always marking the Argentina - and it worked. Take note, world football.

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