Park Ji-Sung: I’ve proved I wasn’t bought just to sell Manchester United shirts
9 February 2012
PARK JI-SUNG is the latest proud member of Manchester United’s 200-club having silenced those who claimed he was only bought to sell shirts in the Far East.
The energetic midfielder completed the milestone when he was introduced as a substitute in United’s staggering comeback draw at Chelsea on Sunday.
It is not a bad effort from the 30-year-old considering how many times he has been forced out for extended periods through injury since his bargain £2m arrival from PSV Eindhoven in 2005.
At the time, Park’s signing was dismissed as an elaborate money-making venture by the Old Trafford money men.
Yet Sir Alex Ferguson always knew the South Korean had the capacity to be a key figure in his plans.
“I am proud to reach this mark,” said Park.
“I never thought I could play 200 matches for Manchester United.
“Some people did say those things (shirt-seller) when I came here. Now no-one says it.
“I am very happy that I proved Asian players can deal with the high levels of European football.”
Park was part of an odd trio of close friends at United.
The sight of him engaged in animated conversation with Patrice Evra and Carlos Tevez brought inevitable questions about what language they communicated in.
Tevez has gone of course but the observations of Park have been widened beyond mere curiosity to an appreciation of his game.
His industry has never been questioned. But with greater experience has come a calmness and game appreciation even he wondered whether he was capable of when he left Asia for Europe almost a decade ago, and then headed for the Premier League.
“Before I came here, I believed I could do it but I wasn’t sure,” he said.
“But the manager believed in me. He encouraged me to deal with these kinds of levels. He told me to fight.
“That made a big difference for me to adapt to English football.”
Park’s return has been impressive.
Since he has been at United, the club have claimed four league titles – becoming the first South Korean to collect a winners’ medal – three League Cups, the World Club Cup and the Champions League.
Park was not in the match-day squad for the latter triumph over Chelsea in Moscow four seasons ago.
However, he did play a pivotal role in the semi-final victory against Barcelona, running a mammoth 19km to help shut down Lionel Messi in the second leg at Old Trafford.
He has also made a remarkable habit of scoring in matches against the biggest opposition, most recently in the FA Cup defeat to Saturday’s visitors Liverpool.
Typically though, Park has no desire to rest on his laurels.
“To make 200 games is brilliant,” he said.
“I have a lot of good memories, especially the days when I have lifted trophies. They are great feelings.
“But the atmosphere at Manchester United is such that when you reach one point in your career, there is a determination straight away to reach other goals and aims.
“That is why Manchester United players want to lift trophies again and again.
“I know why their hunger is so much to win titles. That is the mentality.”