Dong determined to make the grade

China striker Dong Fangzhou insists he has not given up hope of becoming an established star at Manchester United. Dong, 22, has endured a difficult time since joining the English Premiership giants in 2003, but he believes his prospects are finally improving.

He has made just one competitive appearance for United and spent three years on loan with Belgian club Royal Antwerp as he waited for a work permit to play in England. But that wait finally ended in January when he was given the green light to move to Old Trafford and was immediately handed a new three-year contract.

Although the likes of Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha and Anderson are all ahead of Dong in the queue for a place in Sir Alex Ferguson's forward line, the Chinese player refuses to be downhearted. "I am trying to prove I am good enough to play for this team," he told The Times.

"I need to train hard and work hard, but that is no problem for me. For any Chinese player, it is tough when you move to a new country because of the language and the fact it is a different culture. But while those three years at Antwerp were hard, in a way they may help me because I am used to playing in Europe now."

Despite suggestions Dong was signed mainly to boost United's popularity in Asia, Ferguson is convinced he has the attributes to make an impact at Old Trafford. "He has tremendous pace and power," Ferguson said. "He's a very athletic boy. I think this season we will see a better player."

Dong linked up with his United team-mates for their pre-season tour of Asia earlier this month, and he is in line to feature against Guangzhou Pharmaceutical on Friday. "It would be fantastic to play for Manchester United in my own country," he said.