Paul Scholes has described how scary it is to play against Lionel Messi
Surprisingly strong for a little man
How do you try and mark one of the greatest football players of all time?
Well if you're Paul Scholes you just hope that he stays as far away from you as possible. The former Manchester United midfielder has been looking back at his run ins with the Barcelona man during their meetings in the latter part of the 2000's
Scholes faced Messi in the 2008 Champions League semi-final when his strike in the second leg secured an aggregate 1-0 win, while they also met in the 2009 and 2011 finals when Barcelona had the edge.
Scholes reveals how difficult it is to try and keep an eye on a player that is constantly on the move:
'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. 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.'
The Champions League semi-final in 2008 was pitched as a meeting of the two best players in the world as Messi faced off against Cristiano Ronaldo, who was well on his way to becoming the phenomenon he is currently.
The England man gives an insight into the work done on the training field by the management in making sure United were able to frustrate Messi and his colleagues:
'I have never seen a United performance with such a high level of concentration as when we beat Barcelona at Old Trafford. 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 has been some talk recently that it was Alex Ferguson who cost United the two Champions League titles against Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. Rene Meulensteen has said that he thinks leaving Scholes on the bench was a mistake in the 2-0 defeat in Rome.
The player himself gives some indication that the team had a slightly ad-hoc plan on how to deal with Messi during those 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 but no one keeps him quiet every time. As a finisher, there are few players as composed as Messi. When you can score as many different kinds of goal as he can, you have every reason to be confident.'
Interesting stuff from Scholes and maybe someone in Manchester City might have a read before they face the La Liga side and their talisman this coming week in the Champions League. They may be slightly less interested in two other nuggets in Scholes article that caught our eye :
'First off, he never speaks on the pitch. In fact, I don’t think I ever heard him say a word. Second, you won’t believe how strong he is for a little man.'
Maybe if you called him a little man you may get a word out of him. What do you think Yaya?
H/T to Independent