Having waited six weeks to redeem himself, after two horrible performances against Athletic Bilbao, Ji Sung Park seemingly ended his Manchester United career this week with one of his worst performances in a Red shirt. With only two months left to run on his contract, it seems that his thoroughly commendable Red Devils career has sadly sizzled out as the effects of ageing start to truly take its toll on the South Korean’s 31 year-old legs.
Diligent, determined and defensively minded, Ji Sung Park’s Manchester United career has gone on a lot longer than many people expected when we signed the little known winger from PSV, for £4million, in the summer of 2005. Initially, many people saw his arrival as a marketing ploy, quickly citing the Dong Fangzhou experiment, but he has undoubtedly been much more than that; although he has inevitably contributed to the fact that 1 million Koreans have United branded credit/ debit cards and have such a healthy presence in the county.
Still, South Korea’s former captain is set to finish his United career on 205 appearances, assuming that he is not involved against Swansea or Sunderland, which is a figure that only 88 players can claim to beat. Despite his diminishing abilities, after the retirement/ departure of so many players last summer, the workmanlike winger remains one of the most experienced players in the squad.
Park, June 2011
“I wont be able to show my best after one or two years. I don’t know how long I can stay at Manchester. I never thought about retirement but it’s obvious that I don’t have much time left as a player.”
However, despite winning eleven trophies with the club, Park is no longer fit for purpose. Best known for his perpetual movement, Sir Alex has been known to bring him in for the big games, especially away from home, when his hard work recognised as an important tactical asset- shown by the fact he’s made more appearances against Arsenal (13) than anyone else. Typically his role is to harass the opposition high up the field and contribute to counter-attacks when possible but recently his reduced energy levels have left him unable to make up that last yard which makes all the difference; a problem which seems to have haunted him since he was out for three months with an injury in the middle of the 2010/11 season.
Limited to just 28 appearances this term and having made only 10 Premier League starts, many of United’s most depressing performances have coincided with Park’s inclusion in the squad (even though historically his stats are distorted by his disproportionate amount of appearances against the tougher teams). Poor in defeats against Blackburn, Newcastle, Liverpool, Ajax and Manchester City, it seems that Park no longer has the legs to run himself into Sir Alex’s first XI any longer- with his last truly commendable performance occurring against Chelsea in the Champions League last year.
One Season Too Many?
Next season, it seems that the £65,000 a week that we currently pay Park could well be going instead to Asia’s hottest new product, Shinji Kagawa, who is repeatedly being linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer. But regardless of how talented he is, he will do very well to follow in the footsteps of Park’s remarkably successful seven seasons at Old Trafford.
Undoubtedly, the South Korean still has the ability to ply his trade in the Premier League with his experience, versatility and proficient passing (88% success rate this term) but any more time at United seems like an unambitious prospect for a team that is desperately trying to hold on to its dominance at the top of English football. Of course, Asia’s most decorated footballer will always be remembered for his breakaway goal in our 3-0 victory in Champions League Semi Final at the Emirates (08/09), his winner against Liverpool (09/10) and looping header in our 1-0 victory over Arsenal (09/10) and for that he will always be respected.