Champions League news: Chris Smalling never intended to hurt Lionel Messi, says Jose Mourinho
What's the story?
Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has insisted that Red Devils centre-back Chris Smalling did not intend to hurt Barcelona captain Lionel Messi during the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash on Wednesday night.
In case you didn't know...
Manchester United succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona at Old Trafford, following an own-goal from Luke Shaw.
Messi, who could not find the net during the game, picked up an injury after a challenge from Smalling left him bleeding in the face. The duo were trying to win the ball in the air when the defender's hand struck the Argentine's face.
Speaking of the injury after the game, Barca boss Ernesto Valverde said:
"Messi wasn’t so comfortable after the blow. We have to examine him tomorrow to see how he is. He was strong, but he has quite a significant bruise.
"When you see the atmosphere here and the team they have and it being the Champions League, it’s hard to win here. It was a difficult game and complicated at times, but we had the clearest chances."
The heart of the matter
Mourinho appeared to have been impressed by his former side's aggression during the game and insisted that Smalling's challenge on Messi was "nothing".
Speaking on RT Sport, the Portuguese said:
"I don’t if they did or if Messi decided to be quiet. I think a little bit of both. United was positively aggressive. That situation with Smalling and Messi was nothing."
"It happens. It’s just a tall guy who has long arms, I don’t think there was any intention in it.
"They thought about him (Messi) and they have to think about him. They were good from a defensive point of view, keeping a lot of people behind the ball. These are two legs.
"You have to go away in the second leg. If it was a group game where a point is a positive result... they could [still progress] because Barcelona never killed the game."
Barcelona will host Manchester United at the Camp Nou for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final fixture on April 16.