Park: Why I left United in 2012
Five games without playing was the trigger for Ji-sung Park to leave Manchester United in 2012, the three-time Premier League-winning midfielder has explained to the UTD Podcast.
In an engaging episode, Park also revealed how Sir Alex Ferguson reacted to his decision to leave the club in pursuit of regular football elsewhere.
The South Korean – capped 100 times by his country – played for United over a seven-year period hardly equalled in terms of its success in the history of the club.
But when he was overlooked for five consecutive games, he decided it was time to call it a day on his time at Old Trafford.
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“In that last season, it was the only time that I missed five games in a row, without any injuries,” Park explained to UTD Podcast hosts David May, Sam Homewood and Helen Evans.
“That signalled to me that [this was the end] because I'd always contributed. Without injuries, I'd missed maybe maximum three games in a row, but five is quite tough as a player. So then I think it's time to leave the club.
“The club actually wanted me to stay and I spoke with Sir Alex Ferguson, but it was the first time I had missed five games in a row without injury. Some of the players probably knew I was going to leave here because of that happening for the first time.”
That being said, it was not a decision Park took lightly. He had made roots in Manchester, United being the club he spent the most time at his in his career.
“It was very tough because I'd never been at one club for seven years, this was the first one,” he said.
“And everything was there; friends, families, everything settled down. So I was quite comfortable and it was like home. But I had to decide because I was 31 and it was probably the last time to move and have a contract; it was towards the end of my playing career. It was very, very hard for me to leave.
“Sir Alex Ferguson understood how I felt. He wrote a letter to me, which I still have. It's quite meaningful. I'm really appreciative of it and I'm really proud of being a United player under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We didn't talk a lot face-to-face [when I wanted to leave], he just said 'good luck for the future, all the best', and then actually the detail was in the letter, that his grandson didn't want me to go. We had a great relationship between us and I'm really pleased to have worked with him.”
Park joined Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League but left the club when they were relegated, heading back to PSV Eindhoven – the first European side he played for – on a one-year loan move. He was, however, forced into retirement by the age of 33 with knee injuries. By that time, he had become the most successful Asian footballer in history, a title he still holds.