Why Park is doing great but could still be sold

December 18, 2010 Tags: , Reads 26 comments

In the past, one could forgive Wayne Rooney’s lack of goals on the rationale that he adds much more to the game than pure goal scoring. No longer of course but it follows logically that one can also criticise a player for doing little but scoring goals. It is perhaps a little harsh to apply the same argument to Park Ji Sung, who is not a goalscorer.

Crucial then that the Korean does add a lot more to the Manchester United side than few goals here and there.

Previously, this column argued that Park isn’t suited to a traditional 4-4-2, where players line up in broadly three ‘bands.’ The terms ‘wingers’ and ‘wide midfielders’ are used interchangeably. In practice it is a lot more nuanced than that of course; some players more attacking, some offer defensive support.

A subspecies of wingers, one that boasts Park and Dirk Kuyt, specialise less in wing wizardry but in defence. Still working high up the pitch, these players succeed in placing pressure on the opposition full-back.

Park’s greatest strength is his intelligence. His understanding and use of space and geometry on the pitch is second only to Rooney in the United squad. As such, the South Korean captain looks to roam, taking advantage of space and creating it for others.

Park’s movement enhances United’s dynamic front line. On the left of a 4-2-3-1 the South Korean’s nominal job is to mark the full-back. Yet, even if the full-back moves infield Park can, and often does, follow his opponent. Frequently United’s attacking central midfielder breaks ahead of the ball, and the lone forward – in that system – shifts to the flank in response.

This particular example is one of many team movements that happen in real games because of Park’s involvement. It is no accident that some recent hammerings handed out by United, such as the home game against Milan and away against Arsenal last season, involved Park – fluid movements can unsettle even the toughest of defence.

In flexible formations United’s players are in close proximity to Park and can switch position. By contrast, n classical 4-4-2 similar movements are harder and often unsettling. After all, an attacking central midfielder doing a stint up-front is easier conceptually than a striker dropping into central midfield. As such, when deployed in a 4-4-2, Park must stick closely to his position or risk leaving United vulnerable to counters. The ultimate irony of using a defensive winger – a tactic that is rather cowardly – is that it often results in fluid movement, the hallmark of modern attacking football.

Adding to the irony is the fact that defensive wingers like Park often require a high tempo, pressing game with a high line. It’s another trait of the modern game. Much of Park’s defensive role is based on tireless harrying, forcing the team to press and United’s defence to push up. Most of the time, United’s players are prescient enough to move up or drop deep depending on the situation. Last Monday United defended deep and played a pressing game contemporaneously – a tactical marvel.

Since Park’s game is much more suited to flexible systems, it is no mystery that he play’s better when the Reds deploy various takes on 4-5-1. But fluidity only partially makes up for the former PSV player’s limited technique. When Park is in a good patch of form, he can control the ball at least long enough to pass it. When the Korean is playing badly, he gives the ball away cheaply.

Technically exceptional players are also much less prone to losing possession under pressure. As such, gifted opposition players can play around Park and exploit the gap that pops up as United players shift position. The Champions League Final against Barcelona a year ago is an example.

With Gabriel Obertan and Bébé making little notable progress, Park will remain first choice. But as the Korean will soon leave for the Asian Cup, United will have to experiment with existing players, perhaps recalling Cleverley from loan, or bring in somebody new.

With impending retirements of senior figures, availability of classy playmakers on the market, promise of youngsters on the wing and a supposedly sizeable transfer kitty the safest option might be to purchase Javier Pastore – a central midfield playermaker – and push Rooney to the left.

Another option is to bequeath the playmaking role to Anderson, push Rooney left and trust Dimitar Berbatov or Javier Hernández up-front. And if United can make it work without him, Park is likely to be moved on in the coming summer, for there are many reasons for his departure.

The South Korea captain leaves for the Asian Cup at the end of December, at conclusion of which he will retire from the national team, citing his wish to concentrate on his club career. It’s an important winter for the player who is about to turn thirty.

Yet, his national service swan song could be swiftly met by an adieu from United.


Bill - December 18, 2010 Reply

Its very unlikely in my opinion that Park will be sold. The 100% percent crew of Fletcher, O’Shea and Park are the kind of players that are the core of any Fergie squad.

In addition any sale will not bring in much revenue anyway, and Park’s wages aren’t at the top end either. Further to that he has really shown his worth this season, more so than any season.

The final point in his favour is he can play anywhere in a midfield in either 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 formations.

RobDiablo - December 19, 2010 Reply

As long as “anywhere” doesn’t include the wing position on the left (and probably the right, as well).

mongoletsi - December 20, 2010 Reply

Please do not do Fletcher and Park the disservice of naming them in the same group as O’Shite.

50ftdubdemon - December 18, 2010 Reply

interesting read.. as much for thoughts on rooneys future role as parks. have wondered myself about how united will accomodate rooney and one of berba/hernandez/welbeck/macheda whilst sticking with 4-2-3-1 . pushing rooney out left is certainly an option.. and this would squeeze park out before even thinking about potential emergence of someone like bebe or obertan.

another option might be to drop rooney into the hole between the striker and the midfield.. front man in the 3 if you like. can def see him endin up there by time hes in his thirties.. similar to has happened with giggs/scholes

but i reckon at least one of the youngsters would have to step up in a big way before fergie would considor it. and even if rooney or someone else did end up taking his place on the left, hes still a great option to have on the bench.. if your 1-0 up with 10 mins to go then you can fetch him on either in the centre or on the left to break things down/shut up shop.

hope he get a good asia cup.. and that we dont miss him too much in next few weeks!

eddieTheRed - December 18, 2010 Reply

If we are considering a new player to play in that position we might have a look at Victor Obinna; he’s fast, clever, can cross the ball and shoot; and he plays with real enthusiasm; I could see him in a United shirt doing a job for us!

Al - December 19, 2010 Reply

Rubbish, you speak as if you know Man Utd or Ferguson well. Write something more constructive. Berbatove will leave before Park leaves.

herbie simms - December 19, 2010 Reply

When was the last time or how long ago has it been since SAF produced a world class youngster? Modern day football is all about ready made superstars. You have to bring in high quality players in order to compete and to be at the top. For example, Mourinho has has lost one of his star strikers for two months through injury. Do you think he is going to promote one of his youngsters? No, he is now looking to buy another star striker to replace the one that is injured. Thats the tactics in modern day football. Fergie should already have a replacement for Hardgreaves, a midfield play maker and a left back already in place to strengthen his squad come January as he enters the next round of the Champions league, the team all around would be just as strong as Barcelona and Real Madrid. Would also be too strong for Chelsea or Arsenal but Fergie says he will buy no players this winter but I seriously think he has to make a move for at least an attacking midfielder to feed his strikers.

50ftdubdemon - December 19, 2010 Reply

been a while since we ‘produced’ a world class player. but weve certainly brought a few along.. ronaldo being obvious example. no reason why one of the likes of hernandez/bebe/obertan/macheda/da silva twins couldnt go on to be world class and they werent big money signings. or even cleverly/welbeck for that matter.

as for mourinho.. no i doubt he will promote a youngster. but that says more about reals way of doing things than football in general.

Jeet - December 20, 2010 Reply

When was the last time or how long ago has it been since SAF produced a world class youngster?
Ronaldo? Unless you mean homegrown from academy?

karthik - December 19, 2010 Reply

yes…he wont b sold.
fletcher and park are the kind of players who give their 100 percent in every match

Spike - December 19, 2010 Reply


captainhormone - December 19, 2010 Reply

my thoughts indeed spike…ffs

sidney - December 19, 2010 Reply

Park is not doing great

Up until his goal against Arsenal it was the worst display I’ve ever seen from him. A goal doesn’t suddenly make his performance in any game good.

He ruined so many positive attacks by just being shit – either losing the ball, running down a blind alley or picking the wrong option. And this sort of stuff has happened a lot recently.

And, fucking, he left massive gaps on te left for Arsenal’s wing back to run into. It was their only ‘out’ ball. Luckily every cross they put in was shit.

Arsenal were there for the taking, and if we had a better player on the left, we would have scored more

Squad player. Shouldn’t play consistently

Jay Shon - December 19, 2010 Reply

Yeah that’s THE issue when playing defensive wingers. As I spell out in the piece, defensive wingers require aggressive tactics and high lines/pressing game against technical sides such as Barcelona (and on rare occasions, Arsenal) can be dangerous.

And it’s “cowardly” in the sense that we might as well play a proper attacker if we need to play a pressing game

sidney - December 19, 2010 Reply

Aye. You can stop opposition wingers/wingbacks going forward if you have someone like Nani or Ronaldo who is always threatening to exploit space left by the opposition going forward

They won’t want to commit too many players forward in fear of losing the ball and being done on the counter

danniitronix - December 19, 2010 Reply

yep, he could be sold. big wow.

herbie simms - December 20, 2010 Reply

I get frustrated because as a football coach myself, United are in such a great position that I as the manager would act quickly to bring in players in January where the team needs improvements and rap this premier league up early and make it to the Champions league final also.
Two midfielders would do it, one in the mold of Hardgreaves and one attacking (playmaker)midfielder. With Valencia due back in January also, United would be a force to reckon with but its too bad Fergie does not see it that way. Then again, he may have a ace up his sleeve.

mongoletsi - December 20, 2010 Reply


We’ve been through this.

baggio365 - December 20, 2010 Reply

no i think we should listen to you, instead of trusting a man with 30+ years of experience at the top level and just as many trophies.

mongoletsi - December 20, 2010 Reply

The guy makes no sense at all. Would love to know which team he manages!

Alfonso Bedoya - December 20, 2010 Reply

I think Fergie uses Park like a motivational tool to the rest of the squad.

Behave yourself, keep your mouth shut, do as your told, work hard in training, work hard on game day, stay out of the papers… and you’ll play.

It seems to be working well, because we’re top of the pile with a fairly ordinary squad… and aside from Rooney, no one makes waves.

50ftdubdemon - December 20, 2010 Reply

fletchers a good example of that as well.. reckon its one of main reasons you rarely hear united players moaning about not playing and threatening to force a move.. because they all feel theyve got a chance to make the team.

wont stop fergie clearing out players that work hard tho.. nicky butt and phil neville always gave 100% but fergie felt he could find better so he flogged them. think he could shift a few in the summer.. once he has better idea of what hes doin with players like gibson/welbeck/macheda/cleverly/obertan/etc.

Jay Shon - December 20, 2010 Reply

Although Park is a decent player, I think it’s grossly unfair to group Fletcher with Park.

The Scot is having a pretty bad season but he is spot-on positionally and has a range of skills and techniques that surpasses most other defensive midfielders. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade Fletcher for any other defensive midfielder in the world… except may be Busquets. (and even then it can be argued that Busquets, although much more assured in possession than Fletcher, is weaker defensively and only reason he gets away with it is because Barcelona keep the ball so well)

uncleknobheadforfucksake - December 21, 2010 Reply

didn’t read the article

and didn’t read any of the replies except sid danni rob and baggio

too many faffy carricky gobshites

captainhormone - December 21, 2010 Reply

He’ll read this reply

captainhormone - December 21, 2010 Reply

Unregistered User said:
Rubbish, you speak as if you know Man Utd or Ferguson well. Write something more constructive. Berbatove will leave before Park leaves.

tbf, i endorse this theory

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