Paul Parker

Beckham can lift United

Paul Parker

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He may have
started the weekend's game on the bench for Milan, but I'm hoping David Beckham
gets the nod to start against his former club Manchester United at Old
Trafford.

Not for any
sentimental reasons - although it will be nice to see him get the terrific
reception he deserves, and is expected to get, should he feature - but rather
because his presence on the pitch can be of benefit to United.

Beckham is
clearly not the player he was and his influence on a game is now largely
limited to set pieces.

As long as
the game is stopped, or at least played at a slow pace, Beckham can still hurt
sides. But when the tempo is upped any higher, he struggles to get in the game
and he may be liable to be exploited by Patrice Evra's attacking prowess on
Wednesday.

How United
start the Champions League last-16 second leg tie is all-important and I expect Alex Ferguson to tell his side to go
out, all guns blazing in search of that crucial first goal.

At 3-2 up
from the first leg, United cannot afford to concede first - that will give
Milan huge impetus to go and nick another and the entire dynamic of the tie
will change.

But if
United can jump out of the traps, take the game to Milan from the first whistle
and push them onto the back foot, the tie is theirs for the taking. But they
have to keep the game flowing as quickly as they can if they are to kill the
game off.

If the boot
were on the other foot and it was Milan holding a goal advantage heading into
the second leg of the tie, you can be sure they would slow the game right down
and try to sit on that lead - Italian teams have proved over the years they are
more than capable of doing that.

It's a
tactic that works well for them, but United are simply incapable of playing the
same way. It's just not their style and whenever they try to replicate a more
continental approach, more often than not they fail.

Of course,
the man United need to keep tabs on is Ronaldinho, who proved he still has what
it takes to be classed as a top player during the first leg at the San Siro.

If the
Brazilian has the ball at his feet in the final
third there are few better at giving opposition defenders problems.

I'm not
sure how Sir Alex will play it, but Ronaldinho will give him a real headache at
right-back, with Wes Brown out injured, Rafael da Silva a better winger than
full-back and Gary Neville's legs giving up on him.

The boss
doesn't like to man-mark players, especially players who stay out wide, and
even if they do, Ronaldinho has been around long enough to know how to handle the situation
- he just drifts inside, allowing the full-backs to get forward and occupy the
space he is leaving.

Ronaldinho
has enjoyed a real resurgence under his compatriot Leonardo at Milan and such
is his current form, I would love to see him get a recall to the
national side ahead of the World Cup. He's the kind of player that can change a
game with one moment of genius.

Beckham
used to hold a similar quality but, with his
influence now diminished, he is no longer in the same league as his team-mate.

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