Leo Messi looks to put things right at Old Trafford

The Argentine striker has only played once at the Theatre of Dreams: the 1-0 defeat by Manchester United in 2008 which knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League.


Lionel Messi returns to Old Trafford on Wednesday, a stadium at which he has only played once and in a game that he won’t remember fondly.

The last time the Argentine superstar played at the Theatre of Dreams was 11 years ago, in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final in 2008. United, who had managed to hold Barcelona to a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou, won the game 1-0 thanks to a terrific long-range effort by Paul Scholes, which came about after Zambrotta committed a grave error by passing the ball straight to the Englishman.

That day, Messi was denied a goal because of an incredible save by Edwin Van der Sar. The United keeper somehow managed to get a hand to a ball that was destined for the left corner, after the Barcelona striker had made an impressive run from his own half to tee up a shot from just outside the box. Tomorrow Messi has a chance to put things right at Old Trafford, almost eleven years on from that disappointing day for Barcelona.

Since then, Messi has met United twice more, beating them twice in the Champions League finals in Rome in 2009 and Wembley in 2011. In the final in Rome he scored one with his head, while in Wembley he netted the second goal in Barça’s 3-1 victory. And they stand as the only two goals Messi has scored against the Red Devils in four encounters.

Messi’s record against English clubs

Messi has generally been a nightmare for Premier League teams, which is evident from the numbers. With 22 goals in 29 games, no player in Champions League history has scored more goals against English clubs.

From the day he made his debut on English soil against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the 2005-06 season, it was clear that playing in the cradle of football gave him a special type of motivation. While he didn’t score that day, he did manage to strike the post and create all sorts of problems for Chelsea’s defence, who could only stop him by fouling him.

Since then, Liverpool have remained the only English club against whom he has not scored. At the other end is Arsenal, the team most tortured by Messi, who has scored nine goals in just six games against The Gunners. Next on the list is Manchester City: six goals in six games. And of course, nobody will forget the master class that the Argentine offered this season at Wembley against Tottenham, where he added two more goals to his tally against English teams.