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Five Aside

Park: United fans' expectations too high

Park Ji-Sung believes Manchester United's illustrious recent history has manifested itself in unrealistic expectations around the current playing squad.

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Sir Alex Ferguson is currently embroiled in a spat with Alan Hansen after the BBC Match of the Day pundit claimed United had been playing badly for 18 months.

Ferguson responded on Friday, claiming that having won last year's title by nine points, reaching the Champions League final and the FA Cup semi-final, his team must have been doing something right.

However, as Park acknowledges, the absence of a star performer in the mould of Cristiano Ronaldo means United lack the stardust associated with recent campaigns. And whilst their results stand positive comparison with any previous seasons, it has been impossible to emulate the swashbuckling style of old.

"It might be that before we scored a lot of goals and that has a big impact on the fans,'' the South Korea midfielder said. "Their expectations become too high.

"Maybe also because we are out of the Champions League and the FA Cup, people think Manchester United is no good. But we can show our strength on the pitch. We are still producing good performances, we are level with Manchester City and can still win the title.''

It is a matter of amazement to some that United are in their present position despite and obvious failure to reinforce the midfield. The only transfer window arrivals were a reserve-team player from Manchester City - Frederic Veseli - and 37-year-old Paul Scholes, who abandoned his retirement.

Yet still Ferguson has been able to fashion a title challenge out of a team who head to Stamford Bridge on Sunday looking for their first Premier League away win over Chelsea since 2002.

"It is part of our history,'' Park said. "Last season we had a lot of injuries as well but we kept doing well and we won the title. It shows how strong our squad is, that we are able to deal with this kind of problem.

"Everyone has a good mentality. When we get these injured players back, they can help us fight to win the league.''

With Wayne Rooney, Nani, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley all set to return, United's resources are being strengthened significantly, even if Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic will be sidelined for the rest of the season and questions continue to be asked of David de Gea, who is set to start in goal.

Park intends to do his bit, of course, having made a habit of scoring in games against United's major rivals - a run that continued at Liverpool last week. "It always feels good to score goals against big teams,'' he said. "But I am just trying to help the team to win. It doesn't matter how many I get.''

Now approaching his 31st birthday, Park has been around long enough to acknowledge Chelsea will be difficult opponents, even if it is hard to imagine them playing a significant part in the championship battle.

It is a rather odd scenario for Park, who since his arrival at United in 2005 has become used to Chelsea being the team to beat. "When I look at the table, it is different,'' he said. "But when I play against Chelsea, I don't consider them as being out of the title race.

"They are still our rivals. I know the points gap between Manchester City and Chelsea is quite a lot but they won't give up until the end of the season. They will always try to fight. I don't feel there is any difference with Chelsea compared to previous seasons.''


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