Please Don’t Sell My Park…

That’s a moot plea really, since the deed has already been done. This famous song shan’t be sung by United fans ever again, for Park Ji Sung, after 7 stellar years of service, has actually been sold to Queen’s Park Rangers for £2.5 million.

Like John O’Shea and Wes Brown last year and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt some years back, Park is a loyal player who would have loved nothing more than to finish his career at United. Alas, age and waning form coupled with the promise of more regular football at a smaller club has resulted in his departure. It’s a very sad day for the current generation of United fans, who have seen him as an integral part of all our major victories of the past half a dozen years.

Park was discovered by Sir Alex in 2005 after he led Dutch club PSV Eindhoven on a barnstorming run to the Champions League semi-final. There was no doubt that he’s an excellent young midfielder, with several clubs seemingly interested in him. A mere £4 million secured United his services. There was always the added benefit of marketing the club to the Asian audience with his presence. The fools who kept insisting that Park was signed only to sell shirts were made to eat their words on seeing what an influential player he became for Fergie’s side.

Whether playing him on the wings or in central midfield, Fergie’s main idea was the defensive protection that Park provided. The partnership he forged with Patrice Evra on United’s left wing has become stuff of legend. Of course, the fact that Park and Evra were best mates outside the pitch helped. Whether attacking or running back to defend, the two of them wrecked havoc against Premier League sides at will, and occasionally in the Champions League. One should have realised that Park’s time is coming to an end when Ashley Young was signed last year for the same role.

Park was kept for another year probably because of lack of midfield reinforcements at United. Fergie has loved playing Park in the middle of the pitch very often, and it must be said that there have seldom been better man-markers who have played for our great club. The tie against AC Milan in 2010 where Park masterfully kept Andrea Pirlo quiet over the two games is often cited in this regard. With boundless reserves of energy and a big heart (apart from the 3 lungs that he is rumoured to possess), Park was far more crucial a player for United than his 93 starts in the league in 7 years suggest.

It was almost like Fergie always saved him for the big games. Whenever we were up against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Milan, Barcelona or the likes, Park’s was, somewhat bizarrely, always the first name in the team-sheet. And credit to him that he has vindicated the Gaffer on such occasions- whether it’s the CL semi-final goal against Arsenal in 2009, the winner at OT against Liverpool in 2010 or the CL quarterfinal winner against Chelsea in 2011. He has come up with memorable performances against our biggest of rivals in the biggest of stages, and we clearly would have been worse off without him.

It’s a travesty of sorts that this gem of a player should have played his last game for United in the dismal 1-0 league defeat to Manchester City earlier this year- the game that arguably handed our noisy neighbours the title. He huffed and puffed around the pitch in vain, although that had much to do with him not having started a game for months prior to this biggest of encounters. Fergie has made more inexplicable decisions in the past and got away with them, so it wasn’t for me or anybody else to question him. But Park’s hour-long exercise in futility was a pointer towards both his decline and the need for better midfield players at United.

Now that Park is gone, we can look back upon his 7 years fondly and thank him for the 4 Premier League, 1 Champions League and 3 Carling Cup titles he helped us win. There’s no point being depressed about him leaving since sentiments only serve to stall the progress of a club, and I wish him the best for the future. At the same time, I cannot help but feel some excitement at the fact that this may be the cue for one or two midfield signings at United- since murmurs of Anderson’s departure are also growing loud. Even Fergie can’t be obstinate enough to overlook this burning hole in our team. Here’s praying that Shinji Kagawa isn’t the only replacement Sir Alex has lined up for Ji Sung Park.

Follow this author on twitter @mannodiarun.

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