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Rio Ferdinand identifies Manchester United mistake vs Lionel Messi

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Rio Ferdinand believes Chris Smalling awakened the beast by clattering into Lionel Messi during Barcelona's 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford last week.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner delivered a subdued performance in Manchester and required medical treatment in the first half after a robust aerial challenge by the United defender Smalling left him with a bloodied nose.

"I’ve said it before: Chris Smalling smashed him in the first game," Ferdinand told BT Sport.

"Just to be here, there’s going to be people in this stadium - Man United fans - disappointed but they’re going to be able to say: ‘I was there to see Messi perform at that level’."

Smalling was one of United's better performers on the night but was unable to restrict Messi's influence and Ferdinand believes the Argentine was given extra impetus to turn on the style by the clattering he received in the first leg.

A different Messi showed up at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night as he scored twice within the opening quarter of the game to end United's hopes of a second unlikely European comeback in succession.

"It’s probably the worst thing that could have happened over that first game, to smash him, because they woke the beast up and he said: ‘Listen, I’ll put a clinic on here today and make sure you know about me’.
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