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Ji-Sung Park: Life is so rosy for Man United star after snub to Chelsea

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23 Mar 2010 11:36:28

Ji-Sung Park: Life is so rosy for Man United star after snub to Chelsea

Those Manchester United supporters who feel Ji-Sung Park's knack of scoring important goals is newly acquired should click open their lap tops and head for the youtube website. The date is June 12, 2002, and Park is playing for South Korea against Portugal in the World Cup in his home country. With the game goalless in the 71st minute, 21-year-old Park receives a deep centre beyond the far post, controls the ball on his chest, flicks it back inside his marker with his right foot and buries it on the half volley with his left. VIDEO: Park's spark against Portugal... It is a stunning goal, reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp's effort against Argentina in Marseille four years before. Scored in front of his country's president, it is a vital one, too, securing South Korea a place in the second round. 'It's the biggest moment of my life,' said Park at the time. Whether it still is now is not known. There are, however, other contenders these days. ROONEY BATTLE OF WOUNDED KNEEWayne Rooney is a doubt for Manchester United's trip to Bolton on Saturday becauseof his ongoing knee problem. Rooney limped away from Old Trafford after scoring his 32nd goal of the season in the 2-1 win over Liverpool on Sundayafter suffering a recurrence of the injury. The FA are examining footage of Fernando Torres scuffing the penalty spot ahead of Rooney equaliser. A three-times Barclays Premier League winner, a Champions League winner and a FIFA Club World Cup winner, Park has moved his professional life through the gears in recent times. On Sunday at Old Trafford, Park scored the winner against Liverpool. It was another significant achievement. United fans never forget players who do things like that for them. It is one of the reasons the hapless (at the time) Diego Forlan is remembered so fondly. If the love from United fans has grown only slowly, Park's manager Sir Alex Ferguson has always valued him. As long ago as the start of the 2005/6 season, he was talking about Park as an integral part of an attacking trio involving Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, as peculiar as it may sound, the 29-year-old is one of Ferguson's most experienced players. This summer Park will play in his third World Cup finals and has been an international for 10 years since he was first selected for the 2000 Olympic team while still studying economics at university in Suwon. Ji-whizz: Ji-Sung Park was seen as a man brought in to increase shirt sales in Korea but he has been a key player as his header against Liverpool proved He has also been involved in three Champions League semifinals, his first coming with PSV Eindhoven in 2005. Perhaps it is little wonder, then, that he has started to make decisive contributions over the last year or so. Park's diving header against Liverpool came on the back of a goal against Arsenal in United's win at the Emirates in January. He scored his team's opening goal in the Champions League semi-final between the teams in north London last season. 'He is one of our most effective players and he has been for a long time,' said Ferguson. On the ball: Park is a firm favourite in South Korea 'He doesn't make a fuss about it but I wouldn't like to be without him these days.' Now captain of his country, Park is South Korea's most famous sportsman. After the 2002 World Cup, it was his pin-up colleague Ahn Jung-Hwan who stole much of the glory and eventually earned a permanent move to Europe. But, while Ahn's spells at Metz in France and Duisburg in Germany were modest, Park slowly found his feet at PSV under the guidance of his former national coach Guus Hiddink. Park still describes Hiddink as the greatest influence on his career. What is not widely known, though, is that the two men briefly fell out when Park eschewed a switch to Chelsea that Hiddink was in the process of arranging, in order to follow his heart to Old Trafford in 2005. 'When I made my mind up for Manchester I felt that I had betrayed Hiddink,' reflected Park. 'I knew that Hiddink wanted me to stay (and then go to Chelsea later), so I found it difficult.' Predictably, many Premier League observers presumed Park - about whom they knew little - was being brought to Old Trafford as a clothes horse, to shift United shirts and merchandise in Korea. Dutch courage: Park learned his trade in Europe with PSV under Guus Hiddink Certainly, he has helped. Of all United's Asian partners, those in Korea are most valuable. The hysteria when United visit Seoul on pre-season tours outweighs any experienced in China, Malaysia or Thailand, for example. In that part of the Far East alone, there are 250,000 United credit card holders and Park's fan club has - at the last count - almost 100,000 paying members. Having suffered two serious knee injuries in his career - one at PSV and another at United - perhaps it has taken some time for Park's worth as a footballer to be fully appreciated.   Clubs such as AC Milan know all they need to know, though. In both legs of United's Champions League drubbing of the Italians, Park marked their playmaker Andrea Pirlo out of the game. Park has suggested that he is not recognised on the streets in England. That is hard to believe, unless he simply doesn't go out. Whatever the case, on the pitch he is now recognised as a pivotal figure. It is not before time.  Park eyes goal rush for Manchester United's fan-tastic Stretford EndOne giant leap for United: Advantage Fergie in race but Rooney limps offFerdinand basks in glory of winning 'bragging rights' back from LiverpoolMANCHESTER UNITED FC


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