When you are faced with the artistry Barcelona bring to the football pitch there’s only one thing to do, right?
Attempt to match them at the beautiful game and you are likely to be ripped to shreds however, as we saw from Man United last night, meeting beauty with brawn can be simple yet effective.
Jose Mourinho would have been proud.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his boys out with one clear message; let them know you’re there early.
This Sunday League classic seemed to work for the most part as United go to the Camp Nou with just a single goal deficit.
While Scott McTominary did an admirable job shackling Lionel Messi in midfield, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young took their roles as enforcers literally.
Both players were extremely lucky to escape cards for what can only be described as industrial challenges.
First up it was Young’s turn to let Philippe Coutinho know that he would not have an easy ride down United’s right side at Old Trafford. (In hindsight Young was United’s biggest weakness but more on that later).
With just four minutes on the clock Young could have seen red for a crunching tackle from behind on the Brazilian.
Coutinho was ready to receive the ball on the touchline and Young flew in from behind with a very risky challenge and he was extremely lucky to escape without even a yellow for this one.
Young’s game just got worse from then on.
His stats for the game read: 0 dribbles completed, 0 crosses completed and 0 aerial duels won.
Start as you mean to go on and all that Ashley.
Then Smalling attempted to break Messi’s face under the guise of challenging the Argentinian for a header.
Smalling drove through Messi to get his head on the ball on the halfway line in what looked a heavy but fairly innocuous coming together.
On replays, it was clear Smalling knew exactly what he was doing as he left Messi with blood pouring out of his nose and a spit eyelid.
The attack didn’t even warrant a free-kick from the referee let alone a card.
You can’t say he didn’t warn you Lionel.
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