Park proves doubters wrong
Park Ji-sung believes he has convinced everyone his move to Manchester United was about far more than selling shirts in the Far East. At a club whose commercial operation has grown rapidly over the past decade, Park's budget arrival from PSV Eindhoven in 2005 smacked of a cynical marketing move. Although the South Korean had been part of a PSV side good enough to reach the Champions League semi-finals, the obvious benefits of having a prominent player from the Far East in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad seemed to be of equal importance. Yet Park struggled to make an impact during his early years at Old Trafford. Injuries hampered his progress and it appeared his stint in Manchester would be a short one. However, Ferguson had spotted Park's talent and slowly he has emerged as a key figure, especially in big games. He scored the winner against Arsenal last season and was then on target with United's crucial second in their Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea in April. And this season is shaping up to be equally rewarding. Park has scored in three of United's four games so far on their tour of North America, while Ferguson has offered the midfielder a two-year contract extension. Little wonder Park is convinced he has laid those early fears to rest. "At first, some said I was selling T-shirts," said Park. "It didn't hurt. It was my first year and maybe they thought an Asian player could not perform in European football. "I proved it was the wrong thing to think and I am delighted with that. "I have proved I can play in European football." Industrious, disciplined and easy to control, Park is a manager's dream. Little wonder other Premier League teams are starting to look at South Korea as a recruiting ground. Bolton have made a home for Chung Yong-lee while Sunderland signed Won Ji-dong, and Park believes there are others who have the capability to follow his lead. "More Korean players will come here," he said. "There are Korean players who have the talent to play in Europe. Hopefully they can come over to play and show how much Asian football has improved." Park is already looking beyond that, raising the possibility he could eventually end up in Major League Soccer after last night's 4-0 rout of the MLS All-Stars in New Jersey. His immediate future is United, though, and that new deal he looks certain to sign. "Why not?" he said. "I keep saying I want to stay at Manchester United for more years. "Hopefully one day we will get together and sort it out." Park admitted he was surprised to claim the man-of-the-match award last night. Dimitar Berbatov, in particular, had reason to feel aggrieved given his outstanding contribution to United's opener and his own excellent effort just after half-time. With his commitment to the Red Devils secure and Javier Hernandez ruled out for a fortnight - a period that includes the Community Shield on August 7 - Berbatov looks set to be presented with an immediate chance to win back the place he was so devastated to lose for the Champions League final defeat against Barcelona in May. Others are at a far different stage of their development, including Phil Jones, a summer recruit from Blackburn who did a reasonable job at right-back last night. "He is very versatile," said Ferguson of Jones. "He is mobile and he is determined. Last season he played quite a few games in the centre of midfield, so we thought we'd try him at right back. "It is something we can keep as an option for us." Now Ferguson must prepare his team for the biggest test of the tour, against Barcelona in Washington. "It is a game to enjoy," said Ferguson. "We know Barcelona's qualities. It is not something we want to avoid or worry about. "It's pre-season and we'll get a lot out of it. We play the Community Shield the following week and we want to be ready for that."
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