Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has claimed that Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is aware that their coming together was accidental, when the teams faced each other in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Smalling and Messi were tussling for the ball when the former’s arm knocked the Argentine international across his face, causing his nose to start bleeding. Messi, fortunately, has escaped any injury that might have meant he would have missed the second leg.
The defender has now said that he spoke with Messi later and the Barcelona captain is aware that there was no malice in the coming together.
Smalling told BBC Sport of his tangle with Messi: “We spoke afterwards. We had a brief chat and shook hands. He knew it was an accident. I didn’t realise at the time that I’d actually caught him like that.
“[Luis] Suarez [came up to me] after the game as well. We had a good tussle and he just shook my hand afterwards and said ‘good luck’. It’s nice when you can have that battle on the pitch and then there’s respect after the game because, ultimately, you are just trying to do your best.”
Smalling was also confident that Manchester United will be able to get a positive result when they visit Camp Nou for the second leg of the tie.
He added: “We know it can be done. If we can carry on from the second-half performance when we were really on the front foot, brought intensity to the game and caused them a few problems, that’s what we need to go there and do.”