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Park Ji-Sung era at Manchester United about to end

Manchester United's South Korean Park Ji

Manchester United’s South Korean Park Ji-Sung waves to his fans during the football charity match in the Asian Dream Cup 2012 in Bangkok on May 23, 2012. Park Ji-Sung, the founder of the JS Fountation and Asia’s football stars played the charity match with All Star Thai league team to raised fund for the JS Fountation. AFP PHOTO/ PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/GettyImages)

AFP/Getty Images

Not sure many of us saw this one coming, mostly because we didn’t bother looking. Park Ji-Sung was a mainstay at Manchester United, and although in recent seasons he seemed to be more injured that active, he always got playing time when healthy. Alex Ferguson always found a use for him in the biggest games, sp why would he move on?

Perhaps because he was in the last year of his deal, he’s 31 years old, and Queens Park Rangers is willing to pay £5 million ($7.7 million) for him? It’s an offer that’s difficult to turn down for somebody who’s essentially a squad player.

That’s why Park seems on his way to London. BBC Sport is reporting the deal’s been agreed to, an while there’s no mention of personal terms, it’s hard to believe this deal went forward without Park being aware of what’s going on.

Park: Manchester United days (2005-2012)

Park spent seven seasons at Manchester United and helped bust a glass ceiling when he was brought in from PSV Eindhoven. There’s still a lack of Asian presentation in the Premier League, but given how scarce Asian soccer players were in the Isles around 2005, there were significant cultural implications to Park’s signing. That Manchester United had previously inked Chinese attacker Dong Fangzhou made the signings look marketing-driven, though unlike Dong, Park world go on to make a major mark.

Over seven seasons, Park made 205 all-competition appearances for United, scoring 27 goals and claiming nine major medals: four Premier League titles; three League Cups; one UEFA Champions League; and one FIFA Club World Cup.

Now he’s set for a move down the table, to a team more likely to fight relegation than league title rivals. The second Manchester United player to switch to Loftus Road this week, Park seems part of an armistice between QPR manager Mark Hughes and Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. A former player under Ferguson, Hughes had incurred the ire of United with some confrontational antics during his spell at Manchester City. Now, Hughes is leaning on Old Trafford’s spare parts to keep Rangers in the top flight.

Park’s legacy: Meaning beyond the numbers

Should the move go through, it will end one of the more meaningful club tenures in the modern game’s history.

The current state of international soccer is defined as much by globalization as any other phenomenon. In that context, the captain of South Korea’s national team playing for one of the world’s three most recognizable clubs had a profound effect. Park help legitimate the Asian game, undermining patronizing views toward Asian soccer and its products.

He was never a superstar on the field, but Park’s play and presence still helped augment the faces of Manchester United and the Premier League. That he was one of the league’s most well-respected players while doing so undoubtedly paved the way for others, including Ji Dong-Won (Sunderland), Park Chu-Young (Arsenal), Chung-Yong Lee (Bolton, now relegated), and former Premier Leaguers like Lee Young-Pyo (now with Vancouver of MLS).

Part of moving from Old Trafford means that influence diminishes, but with seven year’s legacy place, Park can proudly say his work at United is done.

By the numbers

Look what I swiped from Wikipedia:

ClubSeasonLeagueCupLeague CupContinentalOtherTotal
Manchester United2005–0634120316000452