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Monday, September 10, 2007

Go to Europe, Park urges young Asian players

SEOUL, Sept 10, 2007 (AFP)
Asia's best known player Park Ji-sung has urged emerging talents in the region to follow his lead and move to Europe to complete their footballing education.

The industrious Manchester United midfielder said the conditions and training facilities were far better in Europe and youngsters could only benefit.

"In England, they play on grass, whereas back home (in Korea) they play on hard surfaces or artificial turf," he told

"Generally, young professionals in the Netherlands and England belong to a club which has great facilities in order for them to develop their talent. In Korea they only play for their school and are not part of a club.

"Football in Asia is improving, but it will take time to reach European standards. For me, it's important for Asian players to come to Europe's top-level teams to learn how to play."

Park, 26, moved to PSV Eindhoven in 2003 after a successful 2002 World Cup and then switched to Manchester United in 2005, where he quickly became a big fan favourite.

His comments echo those of his manager Alex Ferguson, who said during the team's Asian tour in July that talented Asians should follow the Park route.

"Park came to us from PSV in Holland, so he had already proved himself in a high quality and competitive European league before arriving at United," said Ferguson.

"That is what Asian players need to do."

Few Asians have made a real impact in the English Premiership, with Japanese duo Junichi Inamoto and Hidetoshi Nakata struggling to reproduce their international form during their time in England.

Aside from Park, only Chinese defender Sun Jihai at Manchester City can claim to have exceeded expectations in the most high-profile league in the world.

Further north in Scotland, Japan's Shunsuke Nakamura has become a big part of the Celtic set-up Read more...

Man Utd: Hiddink my biggest influence, says Park

SEOUL, Sept 10, 2007 (AFP) - Manchester United's Korean star Park Ji-sung has highlighted Guus Hiddink as the biggest influence on his career rather than Sir Alex Ferguson, but sees similarities between the two.

The midfield dynamo, who is out of action until at least January with an injured right knee, said he owed a lot to Hiddink, the former coach of South Korea now managing Russia.

After being rejected by a host of clubs in Korea, Park attended Myung-Ji University to continue his footballing career.

Yet it was not until Dutchman Hiddink was appointed coach of Korean team Taeguk Warriors in 2000 that his career began to blossom.

"When I was young, I always tried to play at a club that was more advanced than my level, so I was continually challenging myself to attain higher goals," he told

"Fortunately for me, I was selected by the national team while I was still at university. Then I went to Eindhoven and gained European experience.

"But it was Guus Hiddink who turned my career around. By believing in me, he made me believe in myself. That is such an important thing for a young footballer."

Park went on to become an integral part of the Korean team at the 2002 World Cup before moving to PSV Eindhoven in 2003 and then Manchester United in 2005.

He said he saw similarities between Hiddink and Ferguson.

"Both are excellent coaches and they always encourage me and my teammates to show our abilities. I find that players who play under their management always give 100 percent in every game."

The 26-year-old has pencilled in a comeback date for early 2008 and believes United have what it takes to retain the Premiership title.

"We've got a good squad and the manager has brought some good players into the team to improve it even further.

"The new signings have all impressed me in different ways. Nani is very quick, Owen (Hargreaves) works hard and Carlos (Tevez) has great vision.

"Anderson hasn't played much, but I am looking forward to seeing more of him. Hopefully, I'll be playing again early in the New Year. My knee is getting better. It's a case of so far, so good." Read more...

Park progressing well

Sidelined Reds midfielder Ji-sung Park says his recovery is going to plan and he hopes to be back playing for United early in 2008.

The Korean midfielder, who underwent surgery on a knee injury in California this summer, hasn't played since scoring in the 4-1 Premier League win over Blackburn in March earlier this year. But he says his rehabilitation is on course.

"Hopefully I'll be playing again early in the New Year," he said in an interview with FIFA's official website. "My knee is getting better and it's a case of so far, so good."

Despite being absent until the title run-in, the 26-year-old is positive about United's chances of retaining the Premier League crown this season, and impressed by the Reds' new signings Owen Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson and Carlos Tevez.

"I'm confident that we can retain the Premier League title this season," he said. "We've got a good squad and the manager has brought some good players into the team to improve it even further."

"The new signings have all impressed me in different ways," he added. "Nani is very quick, Owen works hard and Carlos has great vision. Anderson hasn't played much, but I am looking forward to seeing more of him." Read more...

Player of the Month: August

United fans have voted Owen Hargreaves the Reds' Player of the Month for August, even though the 26-year-old played in just two of United's five competitive fixtures.

More than 14,000 users took part in the poll, which saw the former Bayern Munich midfielder up against Patrice Evra, Nani, Paul Scholes and Nemanja Vidic.

Vidic collected an impressive 27% of the vote after a number of commanding displays at the heart of United's back four, but it was Hargreaves' performances against Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur that saw more than 5000 fans vote for the England international.

In the end, Hargreaves, who has won Man of the Match awards in United's last three matches, scooped 38% of the vote, leaving Evra, Scholes and Nani to share the remaining 35%. Read more...

Sir Bobby not Keane on Roy

Sir Bobby Charlton reckons Roy Keane isn't the right man to replace Alex Ferguson as Manchester United boss. The United legend believes Fergie's reign at Old Trafford will continue for at least three years. But Charlton also thinks the Scot's replacement should not be an ex-United player. That would rule out Sunderland boss Keane and Blackburn's Mark Hughes, who are two of the favourites for the role. Charlton said: "I think there have been a lot of mistakes made by a lot of clubs in getting managers who have already been some part of the club in their career. I don't buy that. If he's a good manager it doesn't matter who he is, where he comes from or even what nationality he is. People say only an old player could do it but maybe it's better to have a clean bill of health. Maybe give it to somebody who will really clear the decks."
Andrew Haigh, The Sun