Park Ji Sung is a midfielder for South Korea and Manchester United in the English Premier League. He can play on either flank, where his industry to get the ball and quality on the ball once he has it launches United’s attack into action. He is the most prominent South Korean in the football world, and captains the national side. Though many wrote Park off as a marketing ploy by Manchester United, trying to generate sales in the Far East, he has proven himself time and again to be a world-class footballer.
Park Ji Sung was born on 25th February 1981 in the capital city of Seoul, South Korea. He grew up in Suwon, and loved football from an early age. Because of his height and build, Park was overlooked by the large Korean football teams, who deemed him too small to play at the highest level. Park headed to university instead, but concentrated on building himself up as much as was possible.
After a year of studying and body-building, Park was offered a contract with Japanese side Kyoto Purple Sanga, who had just been relegated to the second division. He made his debut at the relatively late age of 19 years old, and helped the team to win promotion, albeit as a fringe player. His first taste of football glory came at the end of his second season, when he scored and set-up the winner for his team-mate in the Emperor’s Cup.
Park was included in the South Korean World Cup 2002 squad, managed by Guus Hiddink, and performed admirably. When Hiddink moved to become coach at PSV, he signed both Lee Young Pyo and Park Ji Sung to play in Holland.
Ji Sung struggled to adapt to the European game, and was left on the sidelines whilst his countryman Pyo established himself into the first-team. After a season and a half of waiting in the wings, Park finally began to show the form that had impress everyone in Japan, becoming an integral member of the PSV first-choice midfield that won the Dutch league title. The fans took to Park because of his willingness to chase down lost-causes for the team, and were sad to see him go.
Park Ji Sung signed for Manchester United for £5m in June 2005. park became the first Asian to play for the club, prompting some scurrilous reporters to claim that he had been signed in order to sell more shirts. Park was thrown straight into the first-team, operating on the opposite wing to Cristiano Ronaldo, and impressed the United fans with his work-rate and never-say-die attitude.
He won his first trophy with the Reds in February 2006, when United won the Carling Cup. In United’s title-winning 06/07 season he played less games because of various injuries, and had his season ended early by a knee operation that would allow him to be at full fitness for the run-in at the end of the following season.
Sir Alex Ferguson had brought another winger in Nani to the club, but threw Park back into the first-team when he had returned to fitness. Park played superbly in the tail-end of the season as United romped home with the league title, but was left out of the team for the Champions League Final – a decision that Sir Alex has said was his hardest yet.