Wayne Rooney has heaped praise on former Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung, claiming his role was almost as big as Cristiano Ronaldo’s in their success in the 2000s.
Ronaldo was the last Premier League player to win the Ballon D’Or, in 2008, and Rooney himself deserves huge plaudits for how effective he was in inspiring a successful era under Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, current Derby County player Rooney has suggested that United would not have had the same success without Park Ji-Sung.
Park played for United between 2005 and 2012, a period in which the club won four Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy – and writing for the Sunday Times, Rooney explained just how important the South Korean was.
“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,” explained Rooney.
“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.”
Also mentioning Darren Fletcher for similar reasons, Rooney added: “Players like me, Ronaldo, Tevez got the headlines but they were as important as us if not more, because of what they did for the team.
“We knew that inside the dressing room – and also that because they were so good at sacrificing themselves, their actual individual quality was often overlooked.
“I remember Fergie’s team talk before playing AC Milan [a 7-2 aggregate Champions League win in 2010]. He literally said to Park: ‘Your job today is not about touching the ball, it’s not about making passes, your job is Pirlo. That’s all: Pirlo’.
“I think Pirlo barely had 40 passes in that game, and 95 per cent were backwards because Park was so unbelievable at carrying out his orders.”
Meanwhile, Rooney has also suggested that Man Utd were wrong to sack Louis Van Gaal in 2016, just days after he had lifted the FA Cup with them.