Manchester United defender Chris Smalling says there is no animosity between him and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi following Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final.
Forward Messi was left with a bloodied nose after a robust Smalling challenge in the first half of United’s 1-0 loss.“We spoke afterwards. We had a brief chat and shook hands,” Smalling, 29, told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast.
Barca had already scored the only goal of the game at the time of the challenge, with Messi – generally quiet by his standards – crossing for Luis Suarez, whose header deflected in off United defender Luke Shaw.
The return leg is at the Nou Camp on Tuesday (20:00 BST kick-off).Referring to his aerial challenge on Messi, Smalling added: “I didn’t realise at the time that I’d actually caught him like that.“Suarez [came up to me] after the game as well. We had a good tussle and he just shook my hands afterwards and said ‘good luck’.
“It’s nice when you can have that battle on the pitch and then there’s respect after the game because, ultimately, you are just trying to do your best.”
Spanish giants Barcelona are 11 points clear at the top of La Liga and United face a huge task at the Nou Camp, but Smalling is confident Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have the ability to produce a comeback.
“We know it can be done,” said the England centre-back.“If we can carry on from the second-half performance when we were really on the front foot, brought intensity to the game and caused them a few problems, that’s what we need to go there and do.
“We knew that we couldn’t go completely gung-ho in that second half because there is another leg.“We’ve got to make sure we go there with no regrets and leave everything there to give ourselves the best possible chance.”