Cristiano Ronaldo’s ex-Manchester United teammate recalls stopping Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Wes Brown has recounted the time a young Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United thumped Lionel Messi and Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.
In 2008, Barcelona crossed paths with Manchester United in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. At the time, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were still young but were already Ballon d’Or candidates.
Recalling the historic match in a new book “Manchester United: Unscripted,” former Red Devils defender Wes Brown described how it felt like being tasked to defend a player like Messi.
“[Lionel] Messi was only 20 at the time, but he was already one of the best players in the world,” Brown said via Manchester Evening News. “Everybody knew all about him. He and [Cristiano] Ronaldo were only young, but they’d both just finished in the top three for the Ballon d’Or. Obviously we trained with Ronny every day, but this was the first time we were coming up against Messi and it was something we were excited about.”
Initially, everything seemed normal for Brown. However, as the game progressed, Messi proved Manchester United that he was not famous for nothing.
Fortunately, Manchester United managed to stop Messi from scoring and ended up beating Barcelona 1-0.
“The gaffer told me beforehand that I’d be more focused on Messi, as I was left side,” Brown revealed. “I was fine with that.”
“You do realise, watching Messi, even back then, is that one thing you can’t do is dive in,” he added. “His ball control is unbelievable. A joke. We knew what he was capable of. It was a fact of not giving him time, making him know that someone’s always there. Very simple tactic. People think it might be some really complex plan, but it wasn’t.”