I think this is now generally recognized as United’s first XI: Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Scholes; Park, Rooney, Ronaldo; Berbatov. You can have different opinions about these players. Some think Berbatov is lazy, that Rafael doesn’t know he’s a defender or that Ronaldo should stop pining for Madrid. But most supporters agree that they are excellent footballers. You have to be to get into the starting XI at United. With one apparent exception: Park Ji-sung. He gets his share of praise in newpapers and blogs. But nine times out of ten he gets lauded for his workrate and not much else. Time to put the record straight.
During 2008 Park developed from a squad player to a key player. Some of his strengths are:
-Penetration. He frequently gets into dangerous positions. If he was a better finisher he would be a cult hero.
-Intelligent running creates space for others. Him moving into central areas has been a part of many good moves this season.
-He is actually quite skilful, but prefers a simple pass to an eye-catching step-over.
Finally, I like his attitude on the pitch. You very rarely, if ever, see him dive, fake injury or complain to the referee.
A modest guy too, by all accounts. This is what he wrote about Guus Hiddink in his autobiography: “If it was not for Coach Hiddink, I would not be where I am now. I feel a bit shy thinking about what he would think after reading this, but he is my ‘master’ and I owe him everything and I won’t be able to repay it in my lifetime.”
And yes, I know he missed the Sitter of the Season against Middlesbrough. It didn’t change my opinion of him.