It’s never a good idea to tease the beast, is it?
But saying that, Man United have done everything in their powers to deny Lionel Messi in their Champions League clash with Barcelona this evening.
In particular, Chris Smalling and Scott McTominay – often the butt of jokes among fans – have been thoroughly excellent in the first-leg match and have kept the five-times Ballon d’Or winner relatively quiet.
Before kick-off this evening, many of us believed Barca would have a field day against United’s relatively weak-looking line-up, but Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s boys have done well to often get the better of their lofty opponents, even with the score at 1-0.
McTominay in particular has arguably been the Man of the Match, having won 100% of his take-ons and aerial duels in the first-half, despite often being one-on-one with the superstar.
Smalling, meanwhile, has taken a slightly different approach to dealing with the little magician, having given the Barca talisman a bit of a bloodied nose after the pair challenged for a high ball in the opening 45 minutes.
The centre-back did say “bring it on” to reporters yesterday when asked about the prospect of duelling with the world’s best player, but we didn’t think he had this in mind.
On the face of it, United have been tough, lively, forceful and mostly on-par with the Champions League favourites – and they’ve been unlucky not to score.