Park part of Manchester United's landscape

Being left out of the squad made the Korean even more determined to earn his place

Park Ji-sung never felt like leaving Manchester United, even in his despair at being completely overlooked for the 2008 Champions League final. Despite being one of the most industrious players in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad, Park did not even make the bench for the Moscow shoot-out triumph against Chelsea. Instead he was consigned to watch from the stands, the odd man out in every sense.

Coveted back home, and loved in the Netherlands, where he played so well for Guus Hiddink at PSV Eindhoven before being lured to Old Trafford by Ferguson, it would have been easy for Park to throw in the towel.

Instead he just approached his task with renewed vigour. "That night was a big disappointment for me," recalled the 29-year-old, who was making an appearance at the announcement of a sponsorship deal between United and Turkish Airlines. "I didn't want to leave because I felt I could do more to make it at United. That is why I stayed. I felt it would eventually happen and I believed we would reach another Champions League final, I just didn't expect it to be the following year."

Although Park finished a loser in Rome as United's hopes of retaining the trophy were wrecked by Barcelona, at least by being part of the squad he silenced some of the doubters who claimed he had only been bought because of his commercial value.

Having made two highly successful trips to Seoul since Park joined the club, United have certainly gained far in excess of the £4m they paid for the midfielder. But Park denies he is a trophy asset.

"I didn't get a sense of just being signed for commercial reasons," he said. "I wanted to show that Asian players could make it in Europe. But it was far more important for me just to become a better player. That is why I came to Europe from Asia.

"I do not think of myself as a standard bearer for Asian players. I just try to work hard for myself. Once I became more famous I was proud that people in Asia started to look towards me. All the Asian people respect me and watch me. But I don't want people to think of me as an Asian player. I am just a football player."

The reception Park receives when he goes home would rival anything David Beckham can generate in Britain. He admits it can be slightly unnerving at times, although he finds earning his living half a world away provides a pretty significant buffer.

"Everything I do is watched," he said. "It happened before I came to Manchester United but once I got here the scrutiny became even greater. All the games are live and lots of people watch them early in the morning.

"But when you are in England it is easy to deal with the attention. The people in Korea can't chase me all over the place here. I don't notice how excited they are. I can deal with that."

Park can also deal with the plaudits that have been heaped on him recently by Ferguson, who views the South Korean as one of the major beneficiaries of his new attacking system, with Wayne Rooney as a lone frontman.

Scepticism in the stands has also been erased, along with the self-doubt that Park carried as baggage when he first arrived at Old Trafford.

"I feel better about being at Manchester United," he said. "When I first came I was a little bit worried that I would not be a success. But that always happens. You never know you are going to succeed until you have.

"What I was going to do at the time was more important. I just tried to do my best and once I started training I totally forgot about my concerns. Now I feel quite confident. Mentally, I am in a good place.

"The fans have also been supporting me. It makes me more assured about showing my ability on the pitch."

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas