Park set for Reds reception
PARK Ji-sung is bracing himself for an ear-splitting welcome to Seoul in Manchester United colours on Friday. Two years ago, Park was meant to be playing for the Reds against FC Seoul but was ruled out after undergoing major knee surgery that kept him out of action for almost an entire season. Yet such is the fervour Koreans reserve for their national skipper that they still voted him man of the match! The 28-year-old's presence will also be limited at the same stadium on Friday. This time though, it is because a summer break extended due to his international commitments, means Park is well short of the fitness required to play a major role in by far the most arduous game United will have on the four-match Far East leg of their pre-season work. Ferguson has pledged to give Park some time on the pitch though. And when he does emerge, Asia's player of the year can expect a reaction equal to anything David Beckham had been used to before his out-of-character confrontation with LA Galaxy fans earlier this week. "When a local lad like Ji-sung has left his country to play for Manchester United - and not just play but excel at the very highest level - then it's obvious he will receive adulation in his home country," said Ferguson. "In addition, he has been a star of his national team for some years now. "Korea is a football nation. so the reaction when he comes back is understandable." Park is about to enter the last year of his contract too. Reason While it may be incorrect to state the only reason he is at Old Trafford is because of the extraordinary interest in United he can generate in South Korea, the vast number of Reds' credit cards in use there cannot be overlooked either. "When we signed Park Ji-sung it was for footballing reasons," reflected chief executive David Gill. "But, without a doubt, it has had an impact on our commercial activity in South Korea. "We have one million credit and debit cards here, which is phenomenal and the enthusiasm of the fans is second to none. "We are looking to extend Park's contract because Alex is very happy with him but there is no timing on it." Park's presence should help ease the blow of not having Cristiano Ronaldo to cheer, as the Korean fans had in their capital on United's first visit two years ago, when he scored the first of what turned out to be four unanswered goals. Few are critical of United's decision to offload the 24-year-old for a world record £80million. However, his departure is not going to be merely glossed over. Ferguson knows he will have to adjust his team. And he is aware the Koreans will miss him. "The most significant difference this time is that there's no Cristiano Ronaldo and the fans will miss him," said Ferguson. "But we are still at a very high standard and hopefully this season we will continue that way. "There is a great desire for us to maintain the high standard of success Manchester United deserves." Given his own past record, it is unlikely Ferguson will settle for anything less. At 67, the Scot remains as driven as he was the day he walked through the doors at Old Trafford to replace Ron Atkinson. The game has changed immeasurably over the intervening 23 years, although there is still one aspect of it Ferguson could do without. "What has kept me going? Not the press conferences that's for sure," said Ferguson at the end of an interminably long one which, at the appropriate stages required translation from Turkish to Korean when FC Seoul coach Senol Gunes spoke, then from Korean into English for the benefit of foreign journalists who were present. "I suppose I am at the right club," he added. "It is a fantastic club to be at; great fans, great players. It makes it much easier for me to continue as long as I have. "I have been blessed with good energy and good health, which is what you need at Manchester United because this club needs to be successful all the time." What do you think? Have your say.
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