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Park Ji-Sung - The player for the big occasions

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By Mike Carre

Monday 09 May 2011

Manchester United’s performance on Sunday afternoon in the title face-off against Chelsea epitomised everything Sir Alex Ferguson has built at Old Trafford. The Red Devils have so often been at their determined best on the big occasions and one man in particular typifies this. South Korean Park Ji-Sung is an unspectacular player, but his work-ethic, selflessness, and general habit of popping up with hugely important goals has made him Sir Alex’s go-to man for the big occasions.

Park is the picture of professionalism and loyalty. It is clear that his attitude makes him a manager’s dream. He may not always get the plaudits for his work, but his harrying of the opposition and willingness to do anything and play anywhere for the team is an excellent commodity. Indeed, United have always been known for playing attacking football under Ferguson, but this current side, which perhaps does not possess the world-class attacking quality of previous years, does possess plenty of steel, determination, and genuine work-rate. Sir Alex has shown over the past few years that he has his favourites when it comes to the big games, the players he trusts will do the job for the team - and that is exactly where Park comes in.

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Against Chelsea on Sunday, Park seemed to be everywhere. Always pressing Chelsea’s midfield as well as linking up with the forwards, making it hard to nail down just what position he was playing - it seemed his was occupying three or four. But he is more than just a nuisance. He sets the tempo for his team, gives shape to the midfield and picks up dangerous positions when going forward - as exemplified when assisting Javier Hernandez’ opener. It was a massively significant moment for the Red Devils, knocking the stuffing out of Chelsea so early on, and it is something Park is well-renowned for.

When United fans reminisce about Park when retires, they will have so many moments to choose from when retelling what a good player he was. Most players can point to one or two games in which they were inspired and produced a match-winning performance or goal in an important game, but Park has many such moments. A Champions League semi-final goal away at Arsenal in 2009, his winner against Liverpool in 2010, man of the match display in the 2008 semi-final victory over Barelona, and of course the second goal in the 2-1 Champions League quarter-final win over Chelsea last month, to name a few.

It is perhaps telling that Park is preferred to play in games such as Sunday’s crunch clash instead of the more enigmatic and talented Nani. The Portuguese winger has been in excellent form this season - scoring nine and assisting 18 in the Premier League alone - yet he has found himself relegated to the bench in favour of the more workmanlike Park and Antonio Valencia for the big games. It is again that question of trust, something Sir Alex perhaps does not have in the Portuguese winger because you are never quite sure what you are going to get.

With Park, you know exactly what you will get. Not only will he offer his outstanding commitment to the cause, but he will deliver.

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By Dan on 10 May 2011 at 22:09

Totally agree with the comments about Park. He lacks the touch occasionally because of his all-out approach, but he's much more cultured than some give him credit for. Anyone can run around like a headless chicken, but whilst Park can occasionally give that impression, he has far more intelligence than that. His passing is often short and simple, but he has the ability to unlock defences, as he does time and time again for South Korea. Part of the reason why he is a manager's dream is because of his attitude towards the game. He is as big in Asia as any Asian footballer. Quite possibly, you could say that he is the Beckham of the East, although in fairness, he hasn't the same ability. But he gets mobbed, not only in his homeland, but all over the Far East. His media exposure out there is phenomenal, and as a result, he is under immense pressure. But he handles it brilliantly, and above all, with modesty. The other fact is that because of his upbringing, where Korean culture is extremely hard on disobedience, it is his obligation to obey and respect his elders, and there's no doubt that Fergie, Giggs, Scholes and other senior players who are older than him, will command his respect simply because of this. English people are rarely obedient, but Koreans are brought up to follow orders to the letter. I would also point out that Korean technology is actually the most advanced in the world at the moment. The vast majority of micro and nano chips are made by Samsung, and nano-technology is more advanced in Korea than anywhere else in the world. Samsung, even though it may not seem like it on the High Street, is the world's largest electronics company. Thing is that South Korea doesn't really shout about it as much as you might expect.

By preggy shanmugam on 10 May 2011 at 09:20

park has earned the legend label @ man u .i respect the pen you wrote this peice with mike as he typyfies saf hunger for success . proudly man utd , j s park

By KissMyArsenal on 10 May 2011 at 08:16

To thisworld: wow wtf are u smoking? To Helen & 3 comments previous of her: hopping on as a band on mike carre's bandwagon huh? I H8 PARK! love, gooner

By TIMM0 on 09 May 2011 at 20:02

Good article about a much under appreciated player.. Park had a fantastic game. He always works hard and to great effect; but is generally ignored by the media though not SAF or - I suspect - his team mates

By Kris on 09 May 2011 at 19:25

Excellent article. Enjoyed very much. Thank you.

By Helen on 09 May 2011 at 17:38

No need for any lengthy comment on my end. Great, truthful article, and that goes for the previous 3 comments as well.

By Sean on 09 May 2011 at 16:16

I doff my cap Mr Carre, a well written and truthful article. At the end of the day, players like Park are needed in a team like this, similar to Didier Dechamps. A water carrier but well respected by his team mates all around. The most telling point is that SAF plays him for the BIG games. Nuff said

By Sean on 09 May 2011 at 15:46

I doff my cap Mr Carre, a well written and truthful article. At the end of the day, players like Park are needed in a team like this, similar to Didier Dechamps. A water carrier but well respected by his team mates all around. The most telling point is that SAF plays him for the BIG games. Nuff said

By rahat on 09 May 2011 at 12:12

This is the best article which i have read about Ji Sung Park. He was amazing and instrumental in that game. The way he positioned himself through out the match made him control the game. Great read!

By thisworld on 09 May 2011 at 11:09

Park is just like his home country, South Korea in a way. Under-valued and grossly mis-represented in the West. South Korea is a mind-boggling economic and technological power house in East Asia, if not in the world. But most of us here think we know that country because we hear about starving 'NORTH Korea' in passing or watch that grossly dated comedy 'MASH' on Comedy Central. While we remain blissfully ignorant about this small but dynamic nation, South Korea, along with emerging giant China, and of course Japan and Taiwan, has been busy taking over the technology world. Literally. Ignorance and complacency have their price.





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