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Thursday, February 09, 2012
Park Ji-sung is the latest proud member of Manchester United’s 200-club having silenced those who claimed he was only bought to sell shirts in the Far East.
The energetic midfielder completed the milestone when he was introduced as a substitute in United’s staggering comeback draw at Chelsea on Sunday.
It is not a bad effort from the 30-year-old considering how many times he has been forced out for extended periods through injury since his bargain £2 million arrival from PSV Eindhoven in 2005.
At the time, Park’s signing was dismissed as an elaborate money-making venture by the Old Trafford money men.
Yet Alex Ferguson always knew the South Korean had the capacity to be a key figure in his plans.
"I am proud to reach this mark," said Park. "I never thought I could play 200 matches for Manchester United.
"Some people did say those things (shirt-seller) when I came here. Now no-one says it. I am very happy that I proved Asian players can deal with the high levels of European football."
Park’s industry has never been questioned. But with greater experience has come a calmness and game appreciation even he wondered whether he was capable of when he left Asia for Europe almost a decade ago, and then headed for the Premier League.
"Before I came here, I believed I could do it but I wasn’t sure," he said.
"But the manager believed in me. He encouraged me to deal with these kinds of levels. He told me to fight.
"That made a big difference for me to adapt to English football."
Park has made a remarkable habit of scoring in matches against the biggest opposition, most recently in the FA Cup defeat to Liverpool.
Typically though, he has no desire to rest on his laurels.
"To make 200 games is brilliant," he said. "I have a lot of good memories, especially the days when I have lifted trophies. They are great feelings.
"But the atmosphere at Manchester United is such that when you reach one point in your career, there is a determination straight away to reach other goals and aims.
"That is why Manchester United players want to lift trophies again and again. I know why their hunger is so much to win titles. That is the mentality."
Meanwhile, the Premier League have no plans to cancel the pre-match handshakes ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Liverpool on Saturday, when Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez are likely to come face to face again.
It is understood the handshakes will take place as planned at Old Trafford as the Premier League believes cancelling them would negate the point of having the tradition in the first place.
Saturday’s match will be the second encounter between Liverpool and United since Reds forward Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing United’s Evra last year.
The Uruguayan was suspended for last month’s FA Cup tie between the two sides at Anfield, which Liverpool won 2-1.
Suarez’s ban has now expired and he returned to action in Monday’s league match against Tottenham.
Last month, the Football Association elected to cancel the handshakes between QPR and Chelsea ahead of their FA Cup clash in an effort to ease tensions due to John Terry’s charge of racially abusing Rs defender Anton Ferdinand, an allegation the Chelsea captain denies.
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