Manchester United duo Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick have told FourFourTwo how they plan to negate the threat of Barcelona magician Lionel Messi in Saturday’s Champions League Final at Wembley.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men face Pep Guardiola’s Catalan kings in the showpiece event for the second time in three years after Barcelona prevailed 2-0 in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico in 2009.
Both sides will be desperate to triumph at this year’s final venue, with Wembley the setting for their first European Cup victories, in 1968 for United and 1992 for Barca.
But if the Red Devils are to upset the odds and defeat the Spanish champions they will have to find a way to contain the threat of Argentine wizard Messi, who has scored an astonishing 49 times in 52 appearances for Barcelona this season and headed the second goal against United in Rome two years ago.
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo Performance, Ferdinand revealed that sticking close, but not too close, to the diminutive forward is key to countering his often-devastating talents.
“Make sure you’re within touching distance on his first touch,” he said. “If you let him get a head of speed and start running at you, you’re in trouble.
“As the ball’s coming to him you’ve got to be close enough to be able to get up to him and try and not let him turn. If you let someone like that turn and run at you, you’re in their world and they’re dictating what’s happening, whereas if you keep them with their back to the goal then you’re dictating to them.”
Midfielder Carrick is also set to start Saturday’s showdown having featured in both the 2009 final defeat to Barca and the victory over Chelsea in Moscow the year before.
The former West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur pass master plans to push Messi as wide as possible at Wembley, denying him the opportunity to wreak havoc through the centre of the pitch.
“If they have someone playing off the front like Messi, you want to push them wide to cut them space from playing in the middle," he told FourFourTwo Performance.
“If their biggest threat is out wide you have to try and show them to the other side."comments