When Sir Alex Ferguson brought South Korean midfielder Park Ji Sung in from PSV back in 2005, you could have forgiven Sir Alex for having his doubts about the then South Korean talent actually making the grade at Old Trafford. However those doubts were quickly squashed, as Park went on to become one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever signings, going on to spend 7 glorious years at the Theatre of Dreams, before finally joining QPR Back in 2012.
He may not technically have been the greatest footballer to have ever graced the Old Trafford turf, far from it in fact, but one thing he did have in his locker was work rate. No matter whether it was the 1st minute or the last, Park just never stopped running, giving every last breath he had left in the tank for the team, this would become his forte.
When the big games came round, Park Ji Sung became one of the first names on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team sheet. This was merited as he went on to start 2 European Cup Finals in 2009 and 2011 against Barcelona keeping the likes of Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov out of the starting eleven. His work rate and desire to never give in became a key part of United’s success on the pitch between 2007-2011. Yes the attacking talent was fascinating to watch, but Park’s role in the side was just as important.
I myself, admittedly, didn’t realise at the time, just how important Park was to this United side and only really realised how crucial he was when he left. I never really understood his role properly and instead wanted to see more attacking options on the pitch. I remember thinking “Oh why he is playing, why is Berbatov or Nani not playing, I don’t want Park on!” I couldn’t have been proven more wrong if I tried, as United won 4 leagues in 5 seasons and made it to 3 European Cup Finals between 2007-2011 and reached the peak of World Football. He was in the side for a reason.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and the likes on board, it would always be hard to grab the headlines, but Park Ji Sung’s consistent displays didn’t go unnoticed among the United faithful as he quickly become something of a fan favourite. It was particularly more impressive as it was fairly early when he became a fan favourite. Usually it takes time for the United faithful to be won over by a player, but with Park they made an exception.
As he entered his final season at Old Trafford (2011/2012) it became clear his days at the club may be coming to an end. His appearance’s in the first team became really just cameos as the season wore on. It seemed Sir Alex Ferguson was opting for a more youthful look to his Midfield with Tom Cleverley becoming more of a first team regular leaving Park on the Substitutes bench.
His time at the theatre of dreams had come to an end. However his legacy at Manchester United would not be tarnished, or for that matter, be forgotten by the United faithful. His mark at United had already been made.
By Alexander Robert Brian
Follow me on Twitter: @alex_brian92