Football: Park backs United for fourth

Former Manchester United midfielder Park Ji Sung showing off his striking prowess in front of his fans. The South Korean feels the current players lack the United mentality.
Former Manchester United midfielder Park Ji Sung showing off his striking prowess in front of his fans. The South Korean feels the current players lack the United mentality. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

As an exhilarating Premier League season comes to a close, rivals Manchester United and Manchester City are set to take the battle for fourth spot down to the wire, with just two points separating them.

But former Red Devil Park Ji Sung believes that United (63 points), with one game in hand over City (65), will secure the final Champions League spot.

In an interview at the Westin Singapore, the South Korean said: "That could give more motivation to the players, they (Man Utd) know how important it is to qualify for the Champions League. If they win every single match... it is a good result to bring into the next season as well."

Park, an ambassador for the club, was in town as part of hair care brand Clear's promotional efforts.

Along with company representatives and a team of Singapore Polytechnic (SP) students, Park participated in some football challenges at SP and Cathay Cineleisure Orchard. He is in town to promote Clear shampoo.

Despite his optimism that United will finish the season strong, the 35-year-old acknowledged that Louis van Gaal's team has flattered to deceive, compared to the glory days of the past decade.

Park, who lifted the EPL trophy four times in his seven seasons at the club, said: "Under van Gaal, they like to have more possession than the other team... but we can't deliver in the final third.

"But if he can improve that in pre-season, next season will be a different and stronger team, and more stable performance-wise."

Park, who retired from professional football in 2014 due to a knee injury, added that the current crop of players lack the "United mentality".

Having played alongside club icons like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, he said: "The senior players can influence players who join from other clubs and countries... they teach them how United play, (what) the mentality is.

"These days, (Wayne) Rooney and (Michael) Carrick are there, but they are still too short on players with influence. Maybe with players like (Patrice) Evra, it could be easier for the team to perform like before."

However, when asked which player his former club should ideally look to sign, Park answered without hesitation: "Cristiano Ronaldo."

The Portuguese superstar's Real Madrid contract expires in 2018 and he has said he will only leave the Bernabeu to return to Old Trafford.

Ronaldo's homecoming may be the boost the Red Devils need.

Park said: "He can score and create chances... I know he had a brilliant time at United before he left, it would be great for the fans, as well as for me, to see him again at Old Trafford."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'Park backs United for fourth'. Print Edition | Subscribe