Hazard was perfect practice for Messi test
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes facing Eden Hazard of Chelsea this season has been the perfect preparation for taking on Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
Hazard is undoubtedly one of the top players in the Premier League and showed his class again on Monday night with both goals in the 2-0 victory against West Ham that took the Blues up to third place in the table.
Of course, the Reds have plenty of history with the brilliant Belgian. He scored the winning goal in last season's Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley and has been man-marked in the past by Ander Herrera.
Hazard was shut out as Ole's United won 2-0 in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge in February, to exact some revenge for the previous year's narrow defeat at Wembley. Nonetheless, the 28-year-old showed a different side to his game when tracking back to win possession deep in his half with a burst of acceleration, even when the tie was already seeming lost.
It all adds up to meeting the sort of skilful operator, with great desire and stamina, who shares some attributes with the incomparable Messi.
While deprived of the opportunity to test ourselves against Neymar after the Brazilian was ruled out of both legs against Paris Saint-Germain through injury, the fact United have already crossed paths with Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe in this season's Champions League means there is no need to be in fear of Argentina legend Messi's impact.
“You know, I can’t relate to having the skills he has,” Ole said, when asked by MUTV how, as a forward, he evaluated Messi.
“He is so far away from what I was as a player because he just comes alive when he is in and around the box and has got the ball.
”He’s got a low sense of gravity and balance, which is unique, but, then again, we’ve played against Mbappe and Ronaldo in the Champions League. They are different types of players but we’ve played against Hazard and he is a similar type. He’s coming from the right and Messi will be from the left, but we’ve had some practice and we know what we are doing. But I can’t say there are many better players than him in the world at the moment.
In terms of the contest with Barcelona, the boss will have no qualms about selecting any of the youngsters who served the club so well in the previous round against PSG.
When asked by MUTV about the subject, he replied:
“Why should I? Because, you know, they performed so well and that result plays in our head, of course, when we pick the team.
”We’ve got a couple of niggles and injuries so we’ll wait and see for the reaction from everyone and who is available. We’ve had a couple of illnesses lately so, Wednesday morning, we’ll make the decision.
You can watch the full interview with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in our free Official App. Download it here.