Cleverley return could ease Park strife
Manchester United could reluctantly consider recalling Tom Cleverley from Wigan to ease their midfield dilemma when Ji-sung Park leaves for the Asian Cup in Qatar. Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to monitor the depth of the Old Trafford engine room after the hectic festive season before making a decision on the England Under-21 star. Ideally, the United boss wants Cleverley to continue to top up his Premier League experience at the DW Stadium. A season-long loan with Roberto Martinez's men was considered the best option for Cleverley to progress. After a slow start and a couple of injuries, the 21-year-old had got into his stride at Wigan. He has scored twice in his last three outings and has become a vital part of Martinez's midfield. Though he is awaiting news of a possible cracked rib sustained against Everton last weekend, Cleverley could still be heading back to Old Trafford in January. To a large extent that will depend on any injuries the Reds may pick up over Christmas. There is still huge doubt over the future of Owen Hargreaves with the England midfielder having sustained a hamstring injury on top of all the previous woes that have caused him so much angst over the last two years. Paul Scholes picked up a groin strain against Rangers and has missed the last four matches but could be back against Chelsea. But losing in-form Park to international duty could rip a huge hole in Fergie's plans. Take the 29-year-old South Korean out of the equation and a disciplined option is lost to the manager's selection. And Park has also added a crucial goalscoring element to his armoury. He has consistently been praised for his boundless energy since his arrival from PSV Eindhoven in 2005. But a lack of a decent goal return had effectively stopped him becoming a regular first- choice. However, this season Park has already amassed his best-ever goal haul for a United campaign. His match-winner against Arsenal on Monday was his sixth of the season following on from Carling Cup efforts against Scunthorpe and Wolves, two match-winning goals against the latter in the league and one in the 7-1 destruction of Blackburn. Triumph He won praise from both camps after his first half headed triumph against the Gunners. Sir Alex Ferguson described the Korean as fantastic and defender Rio Ferdinand added, Ji is a big game player. That is a fact. He is a proper team player. We really appreciate him. We love having him here. Even the vanquished Arsene Wenger had a good word, saying: He is a bit of a Freddie Ljungberg type. Of course he is a team player, a team worker. He can score goals as well. He is an efficient player. Park's disappearance to Qatar for the Asian Cup (Asia's equivalent of the European Championships) is, therefore, a badly timed one for the Reds. The South Korean skipper will depart after the Boxing Day game against Sunderland. Cho Kwang Rae's national side start their bid to win their first Asian Cup since 1960 against Bahrain in Doha on January 10. The Koreans then face Australia on January 14 and India on the 18th. If Park and Co progress to the finals it will be an intense six games in 19 days in Qatar. Fergie is expecting him to be absent for seven United matches. Park says winning the trophy will be his top priority but admits it has come at a bad time for his United form. I have mixed feelings about the Asian Cup, he admitted. I am playing with confidence. I feel a bit strange but I am always happy to join my national team as well. Even without me United have enough players to keep winning. I will concentrate on the national team and then focus on Manchester United. Traditionally, it is unlikely that Fergie would make a hasty plunge into the transfer market in January just to cover the loss of a player for a month. However, if Hargreaves continues to breakdown with niggling injuries and the midfield department is hit badly over the next few weeks, then dossiers on Sunderland's Jordan Henderson and Standard Liege's Steven Defour will almost certainly be perused. Should United recall Cleverley? Have your say.
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