Star midfielder Park Ji-sung has won over doubting fans and critics at Manchester United in the English Premier League, just as he did at his previous club PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, according to a report by the Associated Press.
"Once considered a marketing gimmick, Park Ji-sung emerges as core player for Manchester United," reads the title of the article released by the AP on Tuesday. Park is currently in the U.S. on tour with the team.
When Park joined United, many people thought he was acquired for marketing purposes to raise the profile of the club in Asia, the report wrote. This was before he conjured up a successful partnership with Wayne Rooney, providing the striker with plentiful goal-scoring opportunities and occasionally finding the back of the net himself.
"At first, some people said I was only good for selling t-shirts. But I made (it clear) that they were mistaken, so I'm happy," Park was quoted as saying.
The article also featured supporting comments by his teammates, who praised the 30-year-old's work ethic and versatility. "He's just a workhorse," said defender Chris Smalling. "He runs and runs all day long. And he brings that quality, he can play on the wing, he can play center midfield. He's been a real credit to the team, and long may that continue."
Forward Danny Welbeck said he was pleased to hear that Park looks close to re-signing with the club after a spate of rumors that he may be moving on.
"He's definitely one of the more experienced players in the squad," said the 20-year-old. "We all know the qualities that Ji’s got and [how he] provides for the team. Everyone here will be delighted that he’s got a new deal."
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said last week in Chicago that the club had offered the player a two-year extension and he was sure Park would accept. This would probably entail a slight increase in wages for the midfielder, who currently earns an estimated 70,000 pounds per week.
The AP report comes amid growing acknowledgment of Park's contribution to the club’s success. Only last month, the U.S. media Bleacher Report posted an article online entitled, "Park Ji-sung: Is the Asian Manchester United’s Most Important Player?"
The player will get another opportunity to strut his stuff on the international stage on Thursday when the Red Devils face a Major League Soccer All-Star team featuring former United player David Beckham, who now plies his trade for the Los Angeles Galaxy. United will then face FC Barcelona on July 31 to wrap up their U.S. tour.