Sir Alex Ferguson has made countless tough decisions during his United career, selling Ruud Van Nistelrooy, David Beckham letting Roy Keane leave and signing Massimo Taibi are but a few.
However ask Sir Alex what was the most difficult decision he’s had to make during his 20 odd year Old Trafford tenure. Leaving Park Ji-Sung out of the 2008 Champion’s League final is the decision that the United boss claims was the toughest he’s had to make.
The most successful manager in the history of the universe said: “It was a terrible decision to have to take. In many ways it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make because Ji-Sung had played such a great part in the previous games against Roma and Barcelona.”
Park was immense against Barcelona in 2008 playing in both legs as United drew nil-nil in the Nou Camp and won the return leg one-nil thanks to a stunning Paul Scholes strike.
That whole episode almost sums up Park’s United career, he’s the unsung hero who does the job asked of him yet has never quite been considered one of the top players at Old Trafford- at least not by the media.
The fans of course love Park and it’s not just because he’s got the funniest chant at the club, that sees his name sung regularly- although that does make singing it all the more enjoyable.
The last two seasons have seen Park’s star rise mainly due to his performances in the big games -particularly against Arsenal. It’s that big game temperament that United are going to need more than ever in the coming month.
Looking at the next few weeks and the term “every game’s a cup final” has never seemed more apt. The Reds have seven games in a three week period, where anything less than four wins could see the season become the worst one since 2005.
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While all eyes will be on the likes of Wayne Rooney, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov and Chicharito to provide the sparks for United’s triumph, it may well be the man from South Korea that holds the key.
There’s little doubt that with the equivalent of a game every three days, Fergie’s going to have to rotate his squad to the point where even Bebe and Gabriel Obertan may be turning their Ipods off now and again- unless they decide to play while still listening to them- it may even cause an improvement.
Park’s supposedly back to full physical fitness, it’s just match sharpness he needs and he may well get that in United’s trip to Upton Park,
With his retirement from international football- please, please take note Mr Ferdinand, Park will have been able to use the last week to focus on getting himself ready for his United return.
I think West Ham may be the perfect time to bring Park into the side as with Chelsea four days later, if he shows that he’s looking sharp enough, there’s no reason why he couldn’t feature in the Champion’s League game at Stamford Bridge. Then who knows? Park’s a special player for United in the sense that he can play on either wing, in the middle or in the hole yet unlike many players who occupy those positions he’s not afraid to mix it up a bit.
Park will always give his all and he may not have the skill of a Nani, the pace of a Valencia, or even the vision of a Scholes but he’s got the energy of all three of them plus the determination of a Rafael, he simply never gives up.
Throw into that a penchant for scoring in the big games and you have not just a useful player at the business end of the season- but a vital one.
Park’s goalscoring record this season is one every three games, which is the sort of return most strikers who hadn’t had a long run in the side would be proud of. Much has been made of the lack of a real bite in midfield and while I’m not about to claim that Park’s the answer to all our problems, a bit of grit it exactly what’s needed.
Most people will be excited at seeing Tony V flying down the wing again or maybe Berbatov finally being given the sort of run his exploits deserve. For me though, the sight of South Korea’s finest export since, well since, you know erm….well ever, snapping at the heels of midfielders while driving the team forward with the type of energy that’s been sorely lacking, will bring the biggest smile to my face.
It may sound daft- as most things I suggest do in the cold light of day- but the return of Park could be the boost that may not get the headlines but actually ends up delivering the trophies.
Altogether now: “Park! Park! Wherever you may be…….”