Fernando Torres has admitted he might have given up all hope of succeeding at Chelsea but for the support of the club's fans. And the World Cup-winning striker has revealed that one of the greatest memories of his career was off the field when a substitute at Wolves while the supporters chanted his name.
Torres marked a year at Stamford Bridge this week but it was hardly an anniversary to celebrate for the 27-year-old, who remains on course to be remembered as one of the most expensive flops in the history of football. The £50million man has scored just five times in 44 Chelsea appearances since last January's move from Liverpool and is currently on his longest goal drought yet.
Three and half months, 17 games, or 1,000-plus minutes - whichever way you look at it, the statistics make grim reading for the Spain striker. But at least he is being given the chance to end his long wait, having started every game in 2012 while Didier Drogba is on African Nations Cup duty. The same could not be said back in November, when he lost his place to Drogba, with the only thing keeping him going was the comfort of knowing the fans still backed him.
"I would like things to be much better but the support they give me every day is amazing," Torres told Chelsea TV.
"I remember a game against Wolverhampton and I was on the bench, and they were still singing my name.
"I've been very lucky to live very good moments but that game, when I was in the middle of nothing and not playing, was maybe the best memory I have in all my career.
"At the beginning of the season, I went through a hard moment, I was not playing, things were wrong and I was eight games without playing - I had never been in this situation before. "The only thing that gave me hope was the support of the people.
"That game against Wolverhampton showed me there are important things to fight for, the love of the fans, the support of the club.
"My team-mates as well but the fans are the ones who have always been there from the first day until now."
Torres acknowledged that would be difficult without the injured John Terry and Ramires and the suspended Ashley Cole, while he hoped Frank Lampard would be passed fit after the calf injury that has kept the midfielder out of the last two matches. Even if Lampard plays, Sunday's game could see Michael Essien start for the first time this season. The 29-year-old has made four successive substitute appearances since returning from his latest bout of knee surgery, something he admitted was "heartbreaking".
Manchester United midfielder Ji-sung believes the club's impressive list of previous triumphs has created unrealistic expectations for the current team. Sir Alex Ferguson is currently embroiled in a spat with Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen about the merits of the present United side. Ferguson has reacted with incredulity over Hansen's claim that United are woeful, and have been for 18 months.
As Ferguson correctly pointed out on Friday, having won last year's title by nine points, reached the Champions League final and the FA Cup semi-final, they must have been doing something right. However, as Park acknowledges, the absence of a star performer in the mould of Cristiano Ronaldo has meant the Red Devils lack the stardust associated with recent campaigns. And whilst their results stand positive comparison with any previous seasons, it has been impossible to emulate the swashbuckling style of old.
"It might be that before we scored a lot of goals and that has a big impact on the fans," the South Korea midfielder said.
"Their expectations become too high. "Maybe also because we are out of the Champions League and the FA Cup, people think Manchester United is no good.
"But we can show our strength on the pitch. We are still producing good performances, we are level with Manchester City and can still win the title."
It is a matter of amazement to some that United are in their present position despite and obvious failure to reinforce the midfield. The only transfer window arrivals were a reserve-team player from Manchester City - Frederic Veseli - and 37-year-old Paul Scholes, who abandoned his retirement.
With Wayne Rooney, Nani, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley all set to return, United's resources are being strengthened significantly, even if Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic will be sidelined for the rest of the season and questions continue to be asked of David de Gea, who is set to start in goal. end
Chelsea V Man Utd - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game live.