McClaren: Man United must shackle Messi

Former Manchester United assistant manager Steve McClaren believes Sir Alex Ferguson’s side must deal with the movement and genius of Lionel Messi if they are to have any chance of beating Barcelona in the Champions League Final.

United will line up against the Catalans at Wembley on May 28 in a rematch of the 2009 final in Rome, when goals from Messi and Samuel Eto’o saw Pep Guardiola’s men emerge victorious.

Since the 2009 triumph, the diminutive Argentine phenomenon has been voted the best player in the world two years running, and seems destined to receive the honour a third time after a season which has so far seen him notch an astonishing 50 goals and 22 assists in all competitions at club level.

It is no surprise then that McClaren, who tasted Champions League glory as Ferguson’s assistant in 1999 and has since gone on to manage in England, Holland and Germany, considers the Red Devils’ methods of dealing with Messi to be key to their chances of success.

“The only thing I can see is that United may have learned lessons from the 2009 final in terms of how to handle the role and movement of Lionel Messi,” the 49-year-old said in an interview with Yahoo!

“That has to be the main focus: to play their own game, but also to deal with the movement of Messi, which they didn't handle very well on that previous occasion.

“I do know that it will be a great game of football. Barcelona can only play one way, and United can only play one way: that makes for a great game.”

Although McClaren is optimistic about his former club’s chances at Wembley later this month, he was somewhat less sure whether this current United side matches up to the one he helped coach to an historic treble in 1999.

“It's very difficult to say because every team that Sir Alex's has built has had different strengths and different weaknesses,” he added.

“They all have a common denominator, however, with a driven manager, good leaders, a good philosophy, and good coaching. I suppose the game has moved on from 10 years ago when I was there: it is different and more modern now.

“You just cannot compare the different sides, but to achieve the treble was very unique and hard to do.”

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By Liam Twomey