The rearguard of Manchester United will have to be at its best on Saturday if they are to neutralize Barcelona's gem of a player - Lionel Messi. The Argentine did his bit two years ago when he scored the second as Barca lifted the Champions League trophy with a comfortable 2-0 victory.

Messi is, no doubt, raring to go. Despite suggestions that the United team has weakened since that final in Rome, many expect a quite a different, considerably tougher United side this time around. One of them is Messi himself.

He said, ''I have good memories of the final in Rome, but that's in the past. All finals are different and this will be a totally different game to that one - United have changed (some of) their players and it will be different.''

When suggested that United had a weaker side in comparison to the Rome final, Messi argued, They have their league and they are in the Champions League final. They are not weak - they have very good players and a lot of quality up front - and they are used to winning.''

He did have something to scare United with though as the twinkle-toed world player of the year suggested that he had already spotted certain chinks in United's armor.

''I don't know how they will play but it will be a special game and we will look for their defects,'' he said.

However, his manager, Pep Guardiola, was much more cautious. He cited the previous final between the two teams and said United were the better side in the game. He also hinted at jealously at the strength in depth United boast.

Yesterday and today we watched the final from two years ago and Manchester United were much, much better than us in the first half. In the second half, we had more control but it was hard. They played better than us. They are competitive, a strong team, they could put out four or five line-ups and they would all be competitive. They are one of the best teams in the world - not just now but over the last five, 10 or 15 years.

''They can field four or five teams that are all competitive,'' he said. ''I went to watch them play Schalke (in the Champions League semi-final second leg at Old Trafford) and they made nine changes and still won easily. I can't make nine changes to my team because we have a small squad.

When it was suggested that United lacked the fantasy in their game compared to the Catalans, Guardiola's reaction was crisp.

When you see Berbatov, Rooney, Chicharito, Nani, Scholes, Giggs, Valencia, I don't think you can say that. 

He then went on to reveal that Everything, absolutely everything about United scared him.