Park’s Man Utd regret, ‘nightmare’ Scholes claim and Ten Hag comment

Ten Hag backs Man Utd to end season with unbeaten run

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In terms of paving the way for Asian players to make their mark in the Premier League, none have been quite so influential as Manchester United hero Park Ji-sung is proving their worth, as Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes will attest. Park joined United from PSV Eindhoven for just £4million in 2005 and went on to become one of Ferguson’s most reliable performers in his seven years at the club – collecting four Premier League titles and a Champions League triumph. Even now, Park remains a cult hero in the eyes of United fans, and Express Sport looks at the story behind his rise to prominence at Old Trafford.

Man Utd regret

Park was never regarded as a star player at United, for there were more talented players in the squad. But few could match his incredible athleticism and commitment to the team’s cause. That was evident in United’s journey to the Champions League final in 2008 – where Park produced an outstanding performance in the semi-final triumph over Barcelona.

Despite playing the full 180 minutes over the two legs en route to the final, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson left pundits and fans stunned when he left Park out of the entire squad for the all-English final with Chelsea in Moscow.

Even though United prevailed in a tense penalty shootout against the Blues, it was a decision the Scot would later come to regret.

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“My problem in the 2008 final, maybe I even regret it to this day, was I left Ji-sung Park out completely in the final. He’d played such a great role and that’s the problem when you get to these finals,” Ferguson told MUTV, as quoted by The Mirror.

“At Wembley [in the 2011 final] I did it to Dimitar Berbatov and he took it badly. He didn’t deserve it. No player deserves to be left out of the final. That’s why we try hard at these European seminars with the coaches to try to get 11 subs in the final. You’ve got four or five sitting in the stand who made fantastic contributions in getting there.”

Ferguson would go on to rectify his error by giving Park a start in the 2009 final against Barcelona, only for Lionel Messi to inspire the Catalan giants to victory in Rome.

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Scholes’ ‘nightmare’

Paul Scholes is regularly one of the names that crops up in conversation when football fans discuss the greatest midfielders in Premier League history, so his opinion holds some weight. Coming up against the likes of Roy Keane, Juan Sebastian Veron and Owen Hargreaves on a daily basis in training, there was some surprise when Scholes mentioned Park as his most challenging team-mate to get by.

In a conversation with his former team-mate Wes Brown on MUTV’s Group Chat series in 2020, Scholes said he was haunted by the South Korean’s man-marking skills: “Do you know who the worst one was? Park Ji-sung. He was a nightmare! He was unbelievable.”

Scholes added: “He just used to come up to me, look at me and not say a word, stand right next to me… ‘Oh Jesus, here we go!’ ‘Come on, ginge!’ – Just say something to me, have a laugh with me! But he was unbelievable at it. He just used to come and stare right into my face, stare right into my eyes, ‘You’re not getting a kick today’.”

The former England midfielder pointed to his memorable display in nullifying the threat of Andrea Pirlo – then at AC Milan – in their Champions League last-16 knockout tie in the 2009-10 season as a reminder of how difficult he was to play against. “Do you remember when he did it against Pirlo? Ah, he was unreal! He had energy all day and discipline. The discipline was unreal.”

Ten Hag praise

Park, now 41, retired from the game in 2014 after a loan spell with PSV and is working with K-League outfit Jeonbuk Motors as an advisor. As a result, he doesn’t often get the chance to revisit Old Trafford, but that does not mean he doesn’t keep up with how his former team are getting on from afar.

United ended their six-year wait for a trophy after clinching the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 win over Newcastle United at Wembley. The Red Devils are also in the hunt for the Europa League and FA Cup – a stark contrast to last season when they stuttered to a sixth-placed finish under interim coach Ralf Rangnick.

Park has praised Ten Hag for the way he has turned around United’s fortunes and believes fans like himself are eagerly anticipating what the team can achieve under his guidance next season.

“He’s been brilliant in his first season and I think nobody expected [it to be] like that,” he told Sky Sports News. “He made it and there’s been ups and downs as a team, but he seems to be going in the right direction.

“Fans believe he can bring glory again in the future. His way to do it has everyone very impressed, even me as well, and I’m really looking forward to next season already.”

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