Park not alone as United disappoints

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Park not alone as United disappoints


Park Ji-sung

For many footballers, Wembley Stadium in London is a field of dreams, but for Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung, the stadium seems to have become a place to avoid.

Park started in the UEFA Champions League final against FC Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on Saturday but suffered the “Wembley jinx” when his Manchester United team was beaten 3-1 by the Spanish giant.

The match was the Korean player’s second start in a Champions League final and even though he played for a full 90 minutes, in the end he wasn’t able to help deliver the result that he and the massed ranks of Red Devils fans were looking for.

Park, who joined Manchester United in 2005, has won many trophies with the English club but has never won a final played at Wembley.

Starting with the FA Cup semifinal against Everton in 2009, the 30-year-old has played five games at Wembley but has never lifted a trophy at the English stadium. His record at the stadium is a mediocre two wins, one draw and two losses.

This time was no exception. Even though this was the Champions League and not the FA Cup, Park still ended up on the losing team.

In Saturday’s final, Park, as always, showed his trademark energetic movement. Although he was assigned to left midfielder, the former PSV Eindhoven player was everywhere on the pitch. From center to right flank or his assigned left side, Park filled the space left by his teammates when United was defending and rushed to the front when the team was on the counterattack.

Park’s performance was well illustrated by match statistics. According to UEFA, Park ran 11.056 kilometers in the game, which places him in second behind Ryan Giggs, who ran around 11.160 kilometers. Park’s record was also third among all of the players on the pitch, while Barcelona’s organizer, Xavi Hernandez, topped the category with 11.950 kilometers. Park especially shined in the middle of second half, when most players were beginning to look fatigued. His running record was average until the beginning of the second half but became the team’s second runner at the end of the game.

However, Park alone couldn’t change the game, as the Barcelona players dominated possession and orchestrated the tempo throughout the game. Park harassed the Barcelona players with his running but it was too hard for him and the United players to come back from behind against a team like Barcelona.

After the game, Park was given average ratings from the European media. Stuart Mathieson from the Manchester Evening News, gave a rating of six to Park, saying he “gave the Reds a high energy start and never stopped running but so often it wasn’t with the ball.” Other sports media outlets also gave similar ratings to Park, reporting that the Korean had tried his best, but couldn’t deliver a dynamic impact.

If Park had claimed the title on Saturday he would have become the first Asian to lift the trophy. Even though Park was a United player when they beat Chelsea in 2008 to claim the European title the Korean was not part of the squad for that game. He received his winner’s medal seven months later.

In 2009, Park appeared in the Champions League final, becoming the first Asian player in history to play in the Champions League final but United were unable to overcome Barcelona on that night too, who won the game 2-0.

By Joo Kyung-don []

한글 관련 기사 [일간스포츠]

11km 달린 박지성, 웸블리 징크스에 울었다

이번에도 '축구의 성지'는 '산소탱크'에게 우승컵을 허락하지 않았다. 참으로 지긋지긋한 악연이다.

맨체스터 유나이티드의 날개 미드필더 박지성(30)이 생애 두 번째로 유럽축구연맹(UEFA) 챔피언스리그 결승전 무대를 밟아 풀타임을 소화했지만, 상대팀 바르셀로나에게 1-3으로 패해 정상 문턱에서 주저앉았다.

29일 영국 런던에 위치한'축구 성지' 웸블리 스타디움에서 열린 이번 경기서 박지성은 맨유의 왼쪽 측면 미드필더로 선발 출장했다. 실질적인 역할은 프리롤(free role)에 가까웠다. 왼쪽 터치라인 부근에 안주하지 않고 중원과 오른쪽까지 활동 영역을 넓혔다. 수세에 몰린 팀 분위기를 따라 수비적인 플레이에 다소 치중했지만, 역습 상황에서는 최전방까지 과감하게 치고 들어가 골을 노렸다. UEFA 홈페이지(는 '박지성이 실질적으로는 중앙 공격형 미드필더에 흡사한 움직임을 선보였다'는 평가를 내렸다.

많이 뛰는 특유의 플레이스타일도 여전했다. 90분간 그라운드를 누비며 총 11.056km를 뛰었다. 바르셀로나의 중원 사령관 사비 에르난데스가 11.950km를 뛰어 가장 많이 뛴 것으로 나타났고, 맨유의 중앙 미드필더로 나선 라이언 긱스(11.160km)가 2위를 기록했다. 박지성의 기록은 양 팀 출전 선수를 통틀어 3위에 해당한다. 특히나 맨유 선수들의 체력이 전반적으로 떨어진 후반 중반 이후 박지성의 진가가 빛났다. 후반 초반까지 맨유 선수들 중 중위권 수준에 머물던 박지성의 순위는 경기 막판 급격히 상승해 팀 내 2위까지 치고 올라갔다.

하지만 박지성에게 우승의 영광은 없었다. 지긋지긋한 '웸블리 징크스'가 이번에도 발목을 잡았다. 박지성은 2005년 7월 맨유 입단 이후 정규리그와 컵대회를 통틀어 여러 차례 우승을 경험했지만, 유독 웸블리 스타디움에서 준결승전과 결승전이 열리는 잉글랜드 FA컵과는 인연을 맺지 못했다. 2009년 4월 에버턴과의 FA컵 준결승전을 시작으로 총 5차례 웸블리 스타디움을 밟았지만, 우승컵에 입을 맞춰보지 못했다. 같은 기간 맨유의 전적 또한 2승1무2패로 부진했다. 챔피언스리그 결승전으로 종목을 바꿔 웸블리와의 악연을 끊어보고자 했지만, 축구의 성지는 이번에도 박지성에게 정상으로 가는 문을 열어주지 않았다.

박지성은 경기 전에 가진 유럽 현지 언론과의 인터뷰에서 "바르셀로나와의 경기에서 최선을 다해 뛴 후 그라운드에 쓰러지고 싶다"는 각오를 밝혔다. 그리고 웸블리의 잔디 곳곳을 밟으며 이를 실천에 옮겼다. 하지만 결승전 패배로 뜨거운 투혼의 빛이 바랬다.

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