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12 Apr, 2019 16:30

'He knew it was an accident': Chris Smalling defends Lionel Messi 'nosebleed' challenge

'He knew it was an accident': Chris Smalling defends Lionel Messi 'nosebleed' challenge

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling insists there was no ill intent after his robust aerial challenge left Barcelona's Lionel Messi with a bloody nose during Wednesday's Champions League at Old Trafford.

Messi required treatment on the field to stem the flow of blood from his nose after he came off second best in a challenge with the England defender, who appeared to connect with his shoulder to the Argentine's face as they competed for a high ball in midfield. 

The referee didn't whistle for a foul but would later stop play to allow treatment for the Barcelona and Argentina skipper and, as Smalling said to BBC Radio 5 Live after the game, all was forgiven on the final whistle.

Also on rt.com ‘It's nothing. I don’t think Smalling has that intention’: Mourinho talks Messi injury (VIDEO)

"We spoke afterwards. We had a brief chat and shook hands," Smalling said of first half incident. "He knew it was an accident. I didn't realize at the time that I'd actually caught him like that."

There was no hard feelings from Messi's teammate Luis Suarez either, who Smalling says made a point of approaching him after the game to assure him that there was no animosity.

"Suarez [came up to me] after the game as well," Smalling said. "We had a good tussle and he just shook my hand afterwards and said 'good luck'.

"It's nice when you can have that battle on the pitch and then there's respect after the game because, ultimately, you are just trying to do your best."

RT Sport analyst Jose Mourinho, who coached Smalling during his two-year spell at Old Trafford, knows the player better than most and said that the clashes such as the one with Messi are an inevitability on a football pitch.

"That situation with Smalling and Messi is nothing," Mourinho announced. "It happens. 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."

United lost the quarter-final first leg with a Luke Shaw own goal being the only strike of the game, leaving Ole Gunnar Solksjaer in need of a repeat of the type of spirited performance which the Norwegian was central to in the club's historic come-from-behind Champions League win against Bayern Munich inside Camp Nou almost exactly two decades ago.