Chris Smalling insisted Barcelona were unable to cope with Manchester United’s physical intensity after he left Lionel Messi with a bloodied nose during Wednesday’s Champions League quarter final first leg.
A Luke Shaw own goal means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have it all to do at Camp Nou in a week’s time if they are to reach the semi finals, but gutsy performance will leave United feeling they are capable of achieving another miraculous comeback following their astonishing win in Paris last month.
United’s battling display was typified by Smalling’s challenge on Messi midway through the first half which left the Argentine superstar nursing a cut face which forced him to leave the pitch to receive treatment.
Asked how he would cope with Messi before the match Smalling said ‘bring it on’ and asked afterwards about his collision with the Barcelona skipper he was in no mood to apologise.
‘I think it [the challenge] came when we were right on the front foot,’ he told BT Sport. ‘We had to bring the intensity they’re not used to every week and there’s a lot to play for in second leg.
‘We pressed them high and made it difficult. It’s a shame we couldn’t get the goal. I thought we created some good chances. We had a spell in the first half where we went after them and then we looked nervy, but after half time we got at them.
‘The whole team, we nullified them. I think there was only one other save for David de Gea. We knew we had to bring that intensity that they’re not used to.
‘It was a good battle, my yellow card on Luis Suarez out of all the challenges I thought it was the softest.’