Park puts United first
Park Ji-sung is putting club before country in a bid to cement his place at Manchester United.
The Korea Republic international has been promised a new contract by Sir Alex Ferguson after impressing since his move to England from PSV Eindhoven. However, after beginning pre-season training late following his 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ commitments, the last thing he needed was a return to Seoul for an 12 August friendly with Paraguay.
With his country's place among the final 32 nations in South Africa next year already secure, coach Huh Jung-moo has opted to let Park remain in England for the build-up to United's opening game against Birmingham on 15 August. "There is a full list of fixtures and Manchester United have made new signings so the start of the season is very important for Park," said Huh.
If Park had been required to return home, he would almost certainly have missed the Birmingham encounter and probably the midweek trip to Burnley immediately afterwards given the fatigue that tends to affect players on such long journeys. Park's team-mates are currently combating the same problem, having completed their pre-season tour with two matches in Munich last week that were tacked onto the end of a four-match Asian tour, which included a win over FC Seoul.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been linked with bids for David Villa and David Silva despite declaring his summer spending is over, will get the chance to assess both men first-hand when Valencia come to Old Trafford for a friendly on Wednesday evening. The game is the last chance United will have to assess their readiness for the new campaign before Sunday's Community Shield encounter with Chelsea.
It promises to be a pivotal week of training for the Red Devils too as, while Park may be remaining in England, many of Ferguson's players will be heading straight from Wembley to international commitments, with Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick expected to be among those involved in England's friendly with the Netherlands in Amsterdam.
Ben Foster should also be included given his return to fitness, while it will be intriguing to see whether Michael Owen is selected by Fabio Capello following his surprise move to the Red Devils.
Meanwhile, United have handed a trial to teenage Swedish star Linus Sjoberg. For some time the Red Devils have tended to look to the overseas market for young talent, believing the current FA academy rules on travelling time are restrictive. Sjoberg, 15, was spotted by United's Scandinavian scouting network and is expected to link up with the club on trial later this summer.
"You have to be cautious dealing with the social and footballing parts as the social environment is important when you are younger," agent Martin Klette told Fotbollskanalen. "There are both good and bad foreign clubs, as there are good and bad Swedish clubs. People have a tendency to focus on younger players that have had problems abroad and forget that there are very good clubs to grow in abroad."