‘Fantastic’ Park’s absence frustrates Fergie

South Korea’s Park Ji-Sung scored the goal that put Manchester United on top of the Premier League table after a 1-0 win over Arsenal, leaving manager Alex Ferguson with mixed emotions.

While delighted by Park’s agile 41st minute header at Old Trafford that saw United climb to the summit, Ferguson was frustrated by the midfielder’s impending absence on international duty.

Park is set to link up with South Korea for the Asian Cup, which takes place in Qatar from January 7-29, and Ferguson was left ruing his departure at a key stage of the season.

“He’s in fantastic form and we lose him after December 26 for the Asia Cup for seven matches, which is disappointing,” said Ferguson.

United’s win over Arsenal means they will go to champions Chelsea, now three points adrift, on Sunday with confidence sky high.

Victory at Stamford Bridge will ensure they spend Christmas Day at the top of the table for the first time since 2006.

Longest-serving manager
And a win on Sunday would an ideal way for Ferguson, who will then have been in charge for 24 years, one month and 14 days to mark his achievement in surpassing fellow Scot Sir Matt Busby as United’s longest-serving manager.

“We had to play well against Arsenal and we wanted to perform and we did in the first-half,” Ferguson said. “We played very, very well.

“I don’t think it was a feisty game, also the referee was lenient in the first half and in the second-half he showed yellow cards at the right time.

“You have to expect the two top teams to compete like that.”

He added: “You have to play well and we have been playing well. Today [Monday] was another good performance. Arsenal came back in the second half and pegged us back but we had some good chances on the counter-attack.”

Arsenal, who were top before the game, trail United by two points having, like title rivals Manchester City, also on 32 points, played a game more.

But manager Arsene Wenger is refusing to press the panic button and insists the title is still a realistic target for his side, searching for their first major trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.

Bounce back
“It’s a big frustration, a big disappointment,” he said. “What’s important is that we bounce back in the next game against Stoke on Saturday.

“After what I’ve seen tonight, there’s no reason not to believe,” the Frenchman insisted.

“How do I feel? What I feel doesn’t matter, we lost the game. The game was very intense and I think Manchester United defended very well.”

Wenger criticised the Old Trafford playing surface, saying: “The pitch was very poor in my opinion and both sides suffered because of it.

“They [United] made technical mistakes as well because of the pitch. The pitch not good enough to play good football.”

However, Wenger cautioned against making too much out of one result.

“You have to be calm and realistic. You do not necessarily have to jump to big conclusions.” — Sapa-AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Expect no charity from football’s elite

We should let go of the hope that our favourite clubs are going to act altruistically in English football’s looming financial crisis

The cost of Covid: 25 years of progress, halted

Development has been set back by two decades, says the Gates Foundation Goalkeepers report

Controls on remittances risk driving financial flows to Somalia underground

The regulations aim to prevent money laundering and financing terror organisations, but implementing them is proving to be difficult

Where do Africans study abroad?

China is becoming the preferred destination for countries such as Ghana and Nigeria

Is internationalisation in jeopardy?

The pandemic is an opportunity for universities to set new parameters for interacting with foreign students and staff

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Ithala backs its embattled chairperson

Roshan Morar is being investigated in connection with KwaZulu-Natal education department backpack sanitiser tender worth R4-million and a batch of face masks that vanished

Inside the illicit trade in West Africa’s oldest artworks

Nok terracottas are proof that an ancient civilisation once existed in Nigeria. Now they are at the centre of a multimillion-dollar, globe-spanning underground industry — and once again, Nigeria is losing out

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday