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Ji-Sung Park, the man who tamed Pirlo, retires at 33

South Korean enjoyed an illustrious seven-year spell at Manchester United

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Manchester United v AC Milan - Old Trafford

WRITING IN HIS autobiography about the nights, in February and March 2010, when his AC Milan side faced Manchester United in the Champions League knockout stage , Andrea Pirlo singled out Ji-Sung Park for special praise.

The midfielder must have been the first nuclear powered South Korean in history, in the sense that he rushed about the pitch at the speed of an electron.”

Park was the perfect man to shadow Pirlo in both fixtures – his boundless energy, drive and determination that made him a cult figure at Old Trafford, consistently frustrated the suave and sophisticated Italian playmaker.

Source: zouzinho6/YouTube

Years later, when Park quit United and moved to QPR, Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to pay tribute to the South Korean’s performance at the San Siro, in particular.

RioParkTweet

For many, Park was a big-game player at United. But, in 2008, he was left out of the squad for the Champions League final against Chelsea. Park could only watch from the sideline as United won on penalties.

Having played every minute of United’s quarter and semi-final ties, it seemed more than a little harsh. But afterwards, he shrugged it off.

I was told that I wouldn’t be playing just before the match. After the manager announced the team he told me that he was sorry that he hadn’t selected me. The team won so I’m happy. Personally, it’s frustrating not to play in such a big game but there will be other opportunities.”

He was right. But, despite starting the Champions League finals in 2009 (becoming the first Asian to play in the decider) and 2011, he suffered disappointment to Barcelona on both occasions.

Still, in his seven seasons with United, Park won his fair share of silverware. Four Premier League titles, one Champions League, three League Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup. Not bad for a guy who cost United £4m when he moved from PSV.

After leaving United, he struggled through his time with Queens Park Rangers, despite initially being made captain and after the Londoners suffered relegation from the top-flight, Park returned to PSV on a year-long loan.

But, persistent knee problems have dogged him in recent seasons and he announced his retirement on Wednesday.

I’m leaving with no regrets. I do think about what might have been if I hadn’t been injured, but I have no feelings of disappointment or sorrow as I leave the sport.”

Park also won 100 caps for his country and was a key member of the 2002 side that finished fourth under Guus Hiddink.

At his press conference in his home town of Suwon, he was asked to rate his own career and, in true Park style, gave himself a seven out of ten.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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