One of the most eye-catching performances for us over the weekend’s huge victory over Chelsea was the performance of Park Ji-Sung who once again showed the kind of hunger and commitment that’s required when it comes to the big games.
Time and time again the little Korean has starred for the club in the big games. Yes sometimes players may only get praised when they score goals like Park has done from time to time, but tactically sometime hard-working players who go about their job quietly don’t get the praise that they deserve.
Of course every team needs a Park, who in recent years has become invaluable to the side. He may not start every game for the club, but in the big-games where Sir Alex Ferguson needs the team to get a win, whether it be in the Premiership or Champions League – Park often gets chosen to start.
It’s quite easy to forget at times that when Park was first signed by the club, many football fans in general looked down on the move thinking that Sir Alex had only signed the midfielder from PSV Eindhoven for commercial reasons.
After all that’s what the British Media were suggesting, as the club in their eyes signed Park to sell more shirts in Asia where there are alot of United fans.
Of course, there were more clubs than just United looking at Park as during his time at PSV under Guus Hiddink, he had become one of the Dutch team’s best players. In one of his last games for PSV, he shone in a 3-1 victory at the Philips Stadion over AC Milan in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final tie between the sides.
Hiddink’s men just missed out on making the final that year – which ultimately Liverpool won of course – but it was a game that could not have personally gone better for Park. That performance in particular probably convinced Sir Alex that Park was good to enough to play for us and the rest they say is history.
Very quickly Park was able to adapt to the pace of the Premiership and his work-rate, eye for goal and unselfish play for the team is now finally beginning to earn Park praise from non-United fans.
Perhaps it’s because on paper he’s not a star name or the fact that he doesn’t get the goals that say a Lampard/Gerrard does, but in terms of what he brings to the team – there are few better midfielder’s in the Premiership than Park who you would trust in that position.
His performance against Chelsea sums him up well. His effort to track back and win the ball whilst being quick to launch a counter attack was one of the reasons why we won the game. The pass for Javier Hernandez’s goal was great and although David Luiz got a slight touch onto it to perfectly divert it into the path of everyone’s favourite Mexican, Park’s quick-thinking caught Luiz off-guard.
In the build-up to the game, everyone seemed to be talking about Chelsea’s midfield and how their African stars Michael Essien and Jon-Obi Mikel would get on against the likes of Park, Giggs and Carrick. Yes Chelsea did miss Ramires in the first half, but Park never gave Essien or Mikel the chance to get comfortable in the game and was like a little terrier in midfield.
He could even have got a goal but for a simply brilliant save from Petr Cech in goal for the Blues. In the end it didn’t matter as from the resulting corner, a Giggs cross found Nemanja Vidic in the centre for our second of the game which effectively killed the game of after 23 minutes.
It should be interesting to see if Park starts for us in the Champions League final at Wembley. After all Park has done well against Barcelona in the past, playing well over two legs in the semi-finals back in 2008.
The game at Old Trafford was probably one of his finest for the club as in a game where we had to win and stop the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry & Co of getting a priceless away goal, Park held his nerve and worked his socks of.
Of course sadly for him, he was left out of the squad by Sir Alex against Chelsea for the final in what our boss called one of his most heartbreaking decisions that he’s had to make in the job. To his credit Park started the 2009 final versus Barcelona but never really got into the game as sadly for us the better team won on the night.
It should be interesting to see whether or not Park does start in the final this year. I suspect that given Paul Scholes’ ageing legs that he probably will start the game. But if he doesn’t you can rest assured that Park will make an appearance and whatever the situation in the game he will do his best for the cause.
By Adam Dennehey –@ADennehey87