Mourinho: When Messi had the ball Man Utd were dead & you need a cage to stop him

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Lionel Messi Barcelona 2018-19
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The former Manchester United boss was not surprised to see the Barcelona talisman create havoc in the Champions League quarter-final

Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was not surprised to see Lionel Messi dash the Red Devils’ Champions League dreams as “a cage” is the only way to contain him.

The mercurial Argentine tormented Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side during another talismanic display at Camp Nou.

A stunning opening goal doubled Barca’s aggregate advantage in the quarter-final clash, before a fortunate second which slipped under David de Gea ended the game as a contest.

Having downed one Premier League foe, Messi now has another in his sights as the Liga champions ready themselves for a last-four showdown with Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are under no illusions as to the size of the challenge they face, but Mourinho has warned that they will have to try something different to their arch-rivals from Old Trafford.

The Portuguese, who was sacked by the Red Devils in December, told Russia Today: “I think the United approach was different.

“In the first leg they tried to occupy that central zone. Messi’s position is easy to understand but it is not easy to create a cage to control him.

“He comes from the right, then stays in the middle, then [Ivan] Rakitic goes right and allows him to stay in the middle. It’s very difficult.

“Manchester United in the first match, zonally they occupied that area very well. When he came into the inside he was finding Fred, he was finding [Scott] McTominay coming to the inside all the time.

“But I think in [the second leg] because United were losing 1-0, they tried to start with a different perspective.

“Now it was [Paul] Pogba wide left, McTominay much more on the right and Jesse Lingard starting as a 10 behind the strikers.

“In front of the defensive line was only Fred. That’s the area that Messi comes to get the ball and when Messi has the ball one, one, one…you are dead.

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“That’s why I never liked individual man-on-man against Messi.

“Messi’s a cage, you have to create a cage. Barcelona is Barcelona, they have better players than Manchester United. I think it’s normal they won.”

Liverpool are set to face Barcelona and Messi in Catalunya on May 1, with a return date at Anfield due to take place the following week.