Manchester United aren't exactly fancied to win the 2011 UEFA Champions League final against Barcelona. Their opponents are widely regarded as one of the finest teams ever to play football, and United, despite winning the Premier League rather comfortably, are not. But games aren't played on paper, and Barcelona are beatable. The question is how.
While many might focus on the more obvious attacking threats in Barcelona's star-studded lineup - Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and the like - Gene Um of SB Nation's Manchester United blog the Busby Babe is just as worried about the danger posed by right back Dani Alves, who's often the main source of width in the team due to his runs up the right flank. Gene thinks that in Park Ji-Sung United may have the perfect foil to the swashbuckling Brazilian:
Park's role, if deployed on the left flank as expected, will be simple: the Korean must track the runs of Alves. The task may be simple in design, but the application of the design and it's degree of success (or failure) will be crucial; it quite possibly will be the most important tactical match-up in the Champions League final. Park's work-rate is tremendous as well, and also like Alves, he possesses an intelligent tactical brain. Barcelona will likely control anywhere from 55-75% of possession in this match and during this time, Park must man-mark Alves. When the Korean does decide to leave Alves, it must be selective, necessary, and intelligent.
Park is an exceptionally underrated midfielder and may indeed be the perfect weapon with which to hit back at Alves. However, while United might have the tools to deal with the problems posed by marauding fullbacks (see Cole, Ashley), they might not have the strength in central midfield to adequately contain Xavi and Andres Iniesta - dealing with Alves won't make a difference if they can't stop Barcelona playing through the middle.