Why was Park so popular among his team-mates?

Thursday 24 June 2021 11:44

When fans talk of Manchester United’s last great team under Sir Alex Ferguson, the names of Rooney, Ronaldo and Ferdinand will trip off the tongue first.

But there were many important contributions to a great five-year spell between 2006 and 2011 when the club seized four Premier League titles and reached three Champions League finals in four years.

Not all achieved Ballon d’Or nominations, or won Golden Boots, but United wouldn’t have soared the heights if not for their presence.

Few were as modest and devoted as Ji-sung Park – the first Asian to play for United, and someone who former Reds rarely miss an opportunity to praise.

But what was it about Park that so impressed his world-famous colleagues? We’ve put together four testimonies from Ji’s peers that explain just why he was so central to our success.

United Greats: Ji-sung Park Video

United Greats: Ji-sung Park

Fifteen years on from Ji-sung Park becoming a Red, relive some of the South Korean's best moments in a United shirt...

“It’s crazy but if you mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo to a 12-year-old, they would immediately say, 'Yeah, he was a brilliant player for Manchester United. But if you said ‘Ji-sung Park’, they may not know who he was. Yet all of us who played with Park know he was almost as important to our success. That’s because of what Park gave to the collective and I want to talk about teams. They — not stars — are the most important thing in sport. 
“I remember Fergie’s team talk before playing AC Milan. He literally said to Park: ‘Your job today is not about touching the ball, it’s not about making passes, your job is [marking Andrea] Pirlo. That’s all: Pirlo.’ I think Pirlo barely had 40 passes in that game, and 95 per cent were backwards because Park was so unbelievable at carrying out his orders. The rest of us appreciated that, physically and mentally, what Park managed to do that night was so difficult.”
“I remember him as a big-game player. When the big games came around, against the likes of Arsenal and the big Champions League sides, he always stepped up to the plate. He was a great team-mate and a real humble lad in the dressing room. He just went about his job diligently.
“For such a big star in Asia – and he really is a superstar there – he never acted that way at all. He was always professional and a great player. I’d say he was an underrated player, too. People talk about his work-rate, but technically he was very good as well. He could use his left and his right foot, he received the ball very well, he was strong and was the ultimate team player.”
Goal of the Day: Park v Fulham Video

Goal of the Day: Park v Fulham

Ji-sung Park provided the perfect finish to this solo goal against Fulham in 2009...

“Whatever the manager set out for him to do, whether it was defend against somebody, stop someone playing or go in there and make a difference in the opposing team’s box, he’d carry that out. He was that good.
“Ji-sung Park, you wanted him in your team. I remember he man-marked Pirlo out of a game once. Pirlo was waking up in the middle of the night and Ji was at the bottom of the bed waiting for him, giving him nightmares! Ji's a fantastic player and a real players' player. He was greatly appreciated by the other lads and the fans over the years. A real selfless player who always played for his team-mates and was part of a very successful period for the club. After three or four years, he really came out of his shell and was one of the lads, making a lot of jokes.”
“This man doesn't get enough credit, and that's not just because he's one of my best friends. It's because he was a soldier. The semi-final in 2008, against Barcelona, both legs he was the Man of the Match. He is definitely one of my soldiers. Did I learn Korean? It's difficult, because they don't have an alphabet like ours. I've been in Korea four times, but it's hard. I speak six languages but I only know a few words!”