Chris Smalling insists there was no animosity between him and Lionel Messi after he connected with a flying arm during Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat to Barcelona.
The aftermath of the collision saw Messi require medical attention with a bloodied nose.
Scans completed since the game and have come back with no significant damage done to the Argentine’s face and nose.
Smalling, however, has lifted the lid on the conversation he had with Messi after the final whistle. He claims the Barcelona star ‘knew’ it was an ‘accident’.
“Yeah, we spoke after. I didn’t realise at the time actually that I had caught him like that,” Smalling told BBC Sport.
“But after the game we had a brief chat, shook hands and he said he knew it was an accident.
“So it’s nice when you can have that battle on the pitch and then obviously there’s full respect after the game because ultimately you’re just trying to do your best and enjoy the game.”
Looking back at the coming together, I don’t think anyone has tried to say there was more in it.
Smalling just launches himself into the air powerfully and wins the ball in the process. That’s exactly what you want from your centre-back, and he’s one many said wouldn’t be able to cope with the brilliance of Messi.
Now, we’re not saying there is enough evidence to suggest United were so good defensively that the return leg will be a walk in the park. There’s a long way to go yet and Messi still has plenty of time to inflict pain on the Reds.
Former manager Jose Mourinho defended Smalling after the collision with Messi.
“That situation with Smalling and Messi is nothing. It happens,” Mourinho told RT.
“He’s just a tall guy with tall arms. I don’t think he has that intention. But they thought about him. And they have to think about him.”
We hope Smalling to win all his balls in the air at Camp Nou with the same aggression.