MANCHESTER, England (AFP) ― Sir Alex Ferguson said Manchester United would solve the problem of how to deal with Lionel Messi here Tuesday ahead of his Champions League final showdown with Barcelona.
Messi stole the show for Barcelona two years ago, when the Spanish giants outclassed favorites United to win the 2009 final in Rome.
Since then, the diminutive Argentinian has gone from strength to strength, firmly establishing himself as the world’s best footballer.
Ferguson insisted however that United would not allow themselves to become obsessed with a game plan to shackle the South American maestro.
“We have played against Barcelona three times with Messi in the team,” Ferguson told a press conference at United’s training ground.
“But there is always a solution to every good player. Hopefully we can find one on Saturday. They have other good players though, and so do we. That is why it is such an appealing game.
“I am sure Barcelona are aware of that.”
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson (center) watches a team training session at their Carrington training ground in Manchester on Tuesday. (AFP-Yonhap News)
United’s preparations for Saturday’s encounter have been jolted by the legal furore involving midfielder Ryan Giggs, named by a British MP as the footballer who had sought to prevent details of an alleged affair being published.
Married father-of-two Giggs was one of several first team players who did not attend United’s training session at Carrington, where a scrum of photographers awaited his arrival on Tuesday.
Ferguson gave a blunt response on Tuesday when asked to assess Giggs’ importance to United.
“All the players are important to us, every one of them,” he said.
Ferguson meanwhile dismissed suggestions that Barcelona would carry a psychological advantage into the Wembley final after being installed as favorites by the bookmakers.
“There is no advantage,” Ferguson said. “It doesn’t matter. We don’t decide those things. I know my players will be ready.”
Ferguson believes however that Barcelona are now a stronger side than the team which beat United in the Stadio Olimpico two years ago.
“I think they have more maturity about their team now. Winning that European Cup was a big step forward for them as a team,” he said.
Although Ferguson has never spoken at length of the reasons behind United’s defeat that night, the veteran Scot said Tuesday a lapse in concentration leading to Samuel Eto’o’s opening goal had cost his team dearly.
“When we lost the first goal due to that sudden lapse of concentration, that was what cost us really,” Ferguson said. “After that they withdrew Messi into central midfield and that made it very difficult for us.
“So concentration is going to be important in terms of attacking and defending. That will be the key for us.”