That 7-2 demolition of AC Milan over two legs was the sort of highly professional performance that fans and the whole of Europe have come to expect from whatever side Sir Alex Ferguson decides to select. It did not take a genius to predict that Wayne Rooney would dominate the headlines with his total of four goals but there was clearly far more than the Roo factor involved.
Every red played a significant role in those two polished displays including goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar who did whatever was required on the few occasions he was tested. Perhaps the surprise package for most United fans however was the often underrated South Korean midfielder Ji-sung Park.
Ferguson himself confessed that he was the man most responsible for crippling AC Milan over both legs. Park was given the task of man marking playmaker Andrea Pirlo, a job which was carried out to perfection. With no time or space on the ball, Pirlo was unable to pull the strings and feed the Milan’s forwards.
“Park was the key to our game” Sir Alex told MUTV. “We can talk about Rooney – and he was certainly deadly – but Park’s discipline, intelligence and sacrifice won us the match tactically. Pirlo is such an important player for them.”
Club captain Gary Neville, who was barely troubled by Brazilian star Ronaldinho, also acknowledged the role Park played in Wednesday night’s win. “It was not easy for me out there against Ronaldinho especially in the early stages of the away leg, but you have to look at the work Ji-sung Park did, stopping the forwards getting the service. A player like Ronaldinho is difficult to mark if he gets good service but I was able to get close to him.”
Park may not have the natural goal scoring instincts of the now departed, hardly lamented Carlos Tevez but the 29 year old Korean dynamo has the same inbuilt high tempo energy which allows him to effortlessly cover every blade of grass.
As the first Asian player in history to play in a Champions League Cup Final in Rome last season Park is revered not only in his native South Korea but all throughout Asia. A recently signed two year contract will keep him at Old Trafford until 2011-12 by which time he may well be able to win over some of those critics who unlike Ferguson does not yet completely appreciate his undoubted value.
Is there a better Asian player than Park in Europe?