Park Ji-Sung Could Have Shut Down Lionel Messi
Sir Alex Ferguson has told SPORTbible about his regret at not using Park Ji-sung to man-mark Lionel Messi, which he believes cost Manchester United a Champions League final win.
Gary Neville put your questions to his legendary former manager, and Sir Alex opened up on everything from the modern players he’d loved to have coached to the career advice he once gave Jurgen Klopp.
When asked about the most underrated players he’d ever worked with, Fergie quickly named Park among his trio. Neville recalled that the South Korea midfielder was often the manager’s go-to player for specific man-marking jobs, which prompted a fascinating response from the boss.
“That’s where I lost the final against Barcelona at Wembley,” said Sir Alex, claiming a tactical delay cost his side in 2011.
“I should have changed at half-time and put Ji-sung Park on Messi. That was a mistake… I was going to do it at half-time, then I said, ‘Well, we just equalised before half-time, they may see the game differently, we may grow into the game better.’
“We were actually quite good in the last 10 minutes of that half. We came into it and we could have been in front.
“But if I’d played Ji-sung Park against Messi, I think we’d have beat them. I really do.”
Instead, despite Wayne Rooney’s superb first-half equaliser, Messi scored nine minutes after half-time and Barcelona went on to win 3-1. But it says a lot about Ferguson’s competitive drive that the two-time Champions League winner is still analysing the rare big matches that didn’t go his side’s way for what could have been done differently.
The 79-year-old wound-up Neville over avoiding facing a teenage Cristiano Ronaldo when Man United played Sporting CP (we hope he’s apologised to John O’Shea) and labelled one Arsenal legend “that idiot” (…but also tells us he’s a nice boy).
At one point, Sir Alex even turned the tables on Neville by asking him to name all 17 international strikers Manchester United had during his time there. We’re pretty sure Ferguson is still packing that trusty hairdryer somewhere.
Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In is out in cinemas 27th May, and on Amazon Prime Video 29th May