Manager Alex Ferguson's gamble on starting Park Ji-sung against Manchester City proved ultimately fruitless as United's cross-town rival beat the defending league champions 1-0 at Eastlands on Tuesday morning and Park failed to shine.
For the match dubbed the unofficial final of the Premier League -- both teams are now level on points with two games each remaining -- Ferguson started Park, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes as central midfielders.
He showed faith in Park, who has proven himself in big games. But the former Korea captain's lack of playing time in recent matches worked against him. Park has been warming the bench since March 16, when he featured against Spain's Athletic Bilbao in their UEFA Europa League tie.
Tuesday's game also marked his first start since February against Stoke City. Facing a hostile crowd at Eastlands on Tuesday, Park displayed his usual workhorse mentality but lacked impact. He was substituted by Danny Welbeck in the 58th minute when United were already a goal down and struggling to defend against the home side's wave of attacks.
Despite having escaped the injury list, Park has struggled to find a place in the starting lineup this season, during which he has racked up just three goals. This contrasts sharply with his record last season, when he found the back of the net eight times to play a sizable role in the team’s clinching of the league title.
Tuesday's game could have been a turning point for the man dubbed "three-lung" Park but the chance went begging. Last August, he renewed his contract with United until June 2013. He initially wanted a two-year deal but had to settle for a one-year renewal. This means he will have to start renegotiating terms in the coming summer. It remains to be seen whether he can stretch out his tenure with the team for another year.