Both Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed immense success at Manchester United during their time there, though it might come as a surprise to many as to who the former England international has said was just as vital to the side as his Portuguese team-mate.
Park Ji-Sung was hard-working if unsung, but it was that propensity for putting a shift in that clearly appealed to Rooney.
“It’s crazy but if you mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo to a 12-year-old, they would immediately say, ‘Yeah, he was a brilliant player for Manchester United’, but if you said ‘Park Ji-sung’ they may not know who he was,” Rooney wrote in his column for The Sunday Times.
“Yet all of us who played with Park know he was almost as important to our success.
“That’s because of what Park gave to the collective and I want to talk about teams. They — not stars — are the most important thing in sport.”
Although Rooney’s words appear genuine, Tony Cascarino, speaking on talkSPORT and cited by the Daily Express, has slammed United’s former centre-forward, suggesting he might have therefore wanted to have a salary in line with Park rather than that of Ronaldo’s.
“If that was the case, when Rooney was going for his new contract, why didn’t he ask for the same money as Park Ji-sung and Darren Fletcher?” he said.
“[…] If you play for Man United you’re a very, very good footballer, that’s for sure; but there’s a difference between them and Ronaldo. You can’t go and find a Ronaldo unless you play a king’s ransom.”
What’s clear is that even though all three had different attributes, they were cogs in a well-oiled Man United machine, expertly guided by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Park was never going to be the headline grabber in the same way that Ronaldo was, so it’s good to see Rooney going out of his way to ensure that the former’s contribution has been recognised.