What do you get when you plot the greatest play of all-time against the greatest manager of all-time?
That’s what arguably happened when Lionel Messi’s Barcelona stood in the way of Sir Alex Ferguson’s quest to take Manchester United into the 2008 Champions League final.
Messi had already scored six goals in the competition leading into the semi-final clash with the Red Devils.
Wes Brown was tasked with marking the Argentinian maestro in the Manchester United defence – and ultimately it worked with a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp followed by a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
And Brown has now recalled the exact instructions he was given by Ferguson in order to deal with the diminutive Argentinian.
“I was actually marking him, so wherever he went, I had to go with him,” Brown told Stadium Astro.
“It was fine, but I just remember the manager saying, ‘just don’t dive in Wes, you’ll be fine, just don’t dive in’.
“Then if you ever watch that game, the first 10 minutes I dive in and he takes it past me.
“Then after that I don’t dive in and he sort of always lays it off to somebody else. That always makes me laugh.
“I think at that stage the team was so good, everyone was so confident, not just the defence, the midfield, the strike force we had with Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo – everyone was on a high.
“We were confident going into the game, especially drawing the first one at the Nou Camp, coming back to Old Trafford we always thought, ‘we know we can do it’.
“Messi, he is unbelievable because he’s got full speed with the ball – not many people can do that.
“If you do dive in he just moves it and moves it again, but we managed to keep it at bay.”
It was Cristiano Ronaldo who beat Messi to the Golden Boot in the Champions League that season as United lifted the crown against Chelsea in Moscow.
Their rivalry has blossomed with Ferguson adding his slant on the debate a few years ago.
"When the ball is at Lionel Messi's feet it is like he is wearing slippers,” he told The Independent in 2017.
”But there is a difference between Messi and Ronaldo and I'll tell you what it is. I think Messi is a Barcelona player but Ronaldo could be playing for Stockport County and he would score a hat-trick. He is brilliant in the air and he has two feet.”
Whilst Messi might play like he is wearing slippers, Brown was able to keep him quiet under Ferguson’s instructions in another example of the managerial ability.
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