Lionel Messi was superb the last time Barcelona played Man Utd at Old Trafford

  • Rob Swan

Manchester United face the unenviable – or perhaps ‘impossible’ is a more accurate word – task of keeping Lionel Messi quiet for 180 minutes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been drawn to face Messi’s Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals, aware that their opponents will be heavily fancied to advance to the last four.

Messi has been in typically scintillating form this season, scoring 36 goals in 36 matches, and was inspirational in Barça’s 5-1 victory over Lyon earlier this week.

The Argentine’s track record against United is, of course, excellent.

He scored in both the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals against the Red Devils, then managed by Sir Alex Ferguson.

But in 2008 he was on the losing side as Barça were beaten over two legs by Ferguson’s United.

The two sides drew 0-0 at the Camp Nou, while Paul Scholes’ famous long-range effort won the second leg for the hosts at Old Trafford.

Despite that, Messi made a big impression and was arguably the game’s outstanding performer.

Scholes was the match-winner, but some of the things Messi did to him that night were naughty.

Here are a few examples…

“I am not ashamed to admit that in the games against Barcelona I spent a lot of the time just hoping he would take up positions as far away from me as possible,” Scholes later admitted.

“Elusive is the word that immediately springs to mind when I think about Messi’s style of play.

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

“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.”

Messi, who was just 20 years old at the time, was unfortunate to find himself on the losing team.

He terrorised United’s players but, like the rest of his teammates, couldn’t find a way past Edwin van der Sar that night.

Watch the rest of his highlights from the United game here…

Messi is a far better player these days – and he was already world class back then – so it’s hard not to feel that United are in trouble if the five-time Ballon d’Or fancies it next month.

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