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Fergie impressed with Park

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27 July 2005 | ©

Park Ji-Sung has emerged as a likely starter for Manchester United in their Barclays Premiership opener with Everton on August 13.

When Sir Alex Ferguson decided to pay PSV Eindhoven £4million for the 23-year-old this summer, there were plenty of critics who claimed the deal was motivated more by the prospect of commercial gain than any real prospect of the South Korean forcing his way into the Red Devils' line-up on a regular basis.

It has taken just four pre-season appearances for Park to dispel that notion and the energetic midfielder produced his best performance so far with a goalscoring contribution to United's 3-0 win over Beijing Hyundai.

Ryan Giggs must already be sweating on his place in the Red Devils line-up for the new campaign and Ferguson admits Park has adapted to life at United with ease.

"Park will do very well for us," said Ferguson.

"He has great movement and awareness in the last third and while the goal he got will not be the most important he will ever score, it is always good to get a start.

"Overall we have been very pleased with him so far.

"He is very mobile and quick and we have been very impressed with his energy.

"To get players of that quality today and the speed of the game it is a real asset, we are very pleased."

Park may get a rest on Thursday night when United begin the third, and toughest, leg of their Far East tour against highly-regarded J-League outfit Kashima Antlers.

Ruud van Nistelrooy might also be omitted after adding another disappointing missed chance to the two he failed with in Hong Kong last weekend.

Desperate to recover top form after last year's miserable injury-hit campaign and with United looking to significantly increase their goal tally to try to put more pressure on defending Premiership champions Chelsea, at times van Nistelrooy looks as though frustrations are starting to get the better of him.

However, Ferguson remains unconcerned and believes once the real action starts in a fortnight with the first leg of a potentially hazardous Champions League qualifier, the former PSV Eindhoven striker will be a man to rely on.

"Ruud is not lacking in confidence," said Ferguson.

"I thought he did very well. He will score goals this season, I have no worries about that."

Ferguson was equally dismissive of an over-the-top element to the game which, for the second match running, brought van Nistelrooy's blood to the boil.

Intensely annoyed by Zhang Shuai's crude lunge on him from behind, the prolific striker rose to his feet, shoved the Beijing defender and continued the argument long after his assailant had been cautioned.

It was one of a number of petty incidents in the contest, which saw Alan Smith and Phil Neville booked, although Ferguson felt the physical battle never went too far.

"It was a competitive game and when professional players meet each other in that situation, it can become more physical," he said.

"But I don't think it ever went out of control and the referee handled it all very well."

Tuesday night's victory could prove to be one of Neville's final games for the club after Ferguson revealed United had fielded a number of inquiries for the 28-year-old England international, who is reaching the kind of crossroads old friend Nicky Butt found himself at 12 months ago.

After years of being on the fringe at United, Butt eventually opted to join Newcastle, although the example is not a good one for Neville given the midfielder's unhappy experiences at St James' Park.

A lifelong United fan, Neville has always stated he would never choose to leave Old Trafford unless he feared his first-team chances were reducing.

But the arrival of Park and Ferguson's decision to experiment with Smith in central midfield could be the catalyst for a move.

"There have been a few inquiries for Phil over the last two or three weeks but so far we have not accepted any of them," confirmed the United boss.

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