Belfast Telegraph

Park Ji-sung: Un-Sung hero . . . Ferguson full of praise for his midfield battler

Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Park Ji-sung for his matchwinning efforts — then revealed the South Korean is set to miss seven games due to international commitments.

Park's excellent first-half header proved to be the difference as United marched two points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League, with a game in hand.

It should have been more than 1-0 too as ‘prodigal son’ Wayne Rooney missed a penalty 17 minutes from time.

Indeed, Ferguson's only disappointment was that he must soon say goodbye as he competes for his country at the Asia Cup in Qatar.

“Ji is in fantastic form,” said Ferguson. “Unfortunately we are going to lose him for seven matches after December 26. It is disappointing.”

It is the second time in as many months United were indebted to Park, whose injury-time goal secured victory against Wolves in November.

United still had to shred a few nerves last night after Rooney skied a spot-kick over the bar.

“I have never seen him put one over the bar before,” said Ferguson.

Nani also went close with a couple of opportunities, while Arsenal's only real chance came when Edwin van der Sar pushed a Samir Nasri shot into the path of Marouane Chamakh, only for skipper Nemanja Vidic to make a vital block.

“Manchester United defended very well, but technically, the quality of the game was average,” said Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, before outlining his unhappiness with the surface.

“We were not quick and sharp in possession. That was partly down to their defending but also the quality of the pitch.

“If I ask you for a good or a bad pitch, what do you say?

“They made technical mistakes as well. The pitch is not good enough,” added fuming Wenger.

Arsenal have now gone seven games without a win against United and have a similarly poor record in their encounters with Chelsea, who they face at the Emirates Stadium on December 27.

Not that Wenger was inclined to rise to the bait of such an apparent failing.

“Calm down,” he declared.

“You have to be realistic and objective and not necessarily reach big conclusions.

“I am here to analyse one game. You have to give credit to Manchester United for their defending.”

Wenger did reserve praise for 20-year-old keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who did well on his Premier League debut after a shaky start.

“He didn't make any mistakes,” said Wenger.

“If you can do the job, the size of the game is not important.

“I saw Edwin van der Sar playing in big games when he was 18.”

Van der Sar could not be keeping clean sheets at a more important time in the season.

After their own stuttering start, United have now taken 20 points from their last 24 and know victory at Chelsea on Sunday would make them overwhelming favourites to reclaim their title and secure a record 19th championship.

“We have a difficult game against Chelsea on Sunday but it is also a very important game,” said Ferguson.

“We had to play well against Arsenal, but we have been playing well. If they maintain that consistency, we will have a pretty good chance.”

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