Saturday, January 3, 2009

Good Year For Park

Good Year For Park.
As he looks back at 2008, Park Ji-sung could be forgiven for allowing himself a wry smile. It has been an incredible season for the man nicknamed ‘Three Lung Park’ in Manchester and ‘Oxygen Tank’ in Seoul.

These monikers sell the player a little short but they are vast improvements on the label quickly pinned to his chest upon his arrival in England three and a half years ago. 'Park Bench’ crowed the English media. Not only has the 27 year-old dispelled notions that he is at the club for his ability to sell shirts rather than his skills on the pitch, he has ended the year with a haul of medals that most players around the world can only dream of.

A trip to Park’s home in England’s north-west will reveal an English championship medal, his second in two seasons, a European Champions League medal and a FIFA Club World Cup medal. No Asian player has won even one such prize. Park picked up all three in one season.

Despite a number of injuries, Park has played over 100 games for the Red Devils. It can’t be said that he is an automatic starter but he is a valued and important member of the roster. In the modern game, few players start every game and even fewer play for what is now officially the best team in the world.

“I'm so happy with the way things are going this season. I enjoy playing and I've been involved a lot in the first team," he told MUTV, the club's television channel. “I need to prove what I can do and I'm going to keep doing my best."

United boss Alex Ferguson is not shy of praising his players but his appreciation of Park’s intelligence, movement, his ability to use space on the pitch and create that space for others as well as his obvious determination, stamina and team and work ethic is genuine. ‘A coach’s dream’ is how the Scot refers to the South Korean.

Ferguson had a nightmare choice in May in Moscow as United battled Chelsea in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Park played every single minute against Roma in the quarterfinal and Barcelona in the semifinal but the player was not selected in the roster for the final. It was a decision that did not go down to well in the Land of the Morning Calm.

Such indignation may or not have reached the ears of Ferguson. Anyway, the boss felt the need to explain what happened. "It was a terrible decision to have to take," he said. "In many ways it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make because Ji-Sung had played such a great part in the previous games against Roma and Barcelona.”

That’s football. Few doubted that Park would put the disappointment behind him. In the first half of the current season, the player has enjoyed a sustained run in the team.

He also ended the year in fine fashion. As European champions, United travelled to Japan for the Club World Cup Championship. The English giants defeated Asian champions Gamba Osaka 5-3 and then South American winners LDU Quito in the final. Park’s professional career started in Japan and it was a sweet return.

It hurt me to miss the Champions League final, so to play in the Club World Cup was great. To be called a world champion is amazing — a dream for me.”

That career is now at its zenith. Even if Park never wins anything ever again in Europe and England, he will still have achieved things that others can only dream of.

Despite that, the Korean media is concerned about Park’s future.

"I only have one more year left on my contract and there has been no contact about a new deal yet,” Park was quoted as saying in the English press. “I want to stay here but we’ll have to wait and see. I’m not letting myself become too worried. I just want to concentrate on playing well for United and, hopefully, we’ll talk. If I play well and show that I’m an asset to the team then maybe I’ll get a new contract.”

Ferguson was quick to reassure the player that he will be at Old Trafford for a while to come yet.

Copyright: John Duerden &

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EP said...

When Park's contributions fit Sir Alex's game plan, he is an amazing asset. I thought the game against Roma last year was a zenith performance, and Park was a real engine behind that with his incredible work rate.

I was so impressed with that team performance and Park's integral part of it, that I started my own blog on the inspiration:

Attacking90 Soccer Blog - Manchester United Burns Roma

Great article on Park - we should keep an eye out for his future! A dangerous attacking to face if you're on the other side.


Paul said...

Great article. Always appreciate your objective commentary, something very hard to find in the Korean press.