MANCHESTER (AFP) – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson saluted Park Ji-Sung after the South Korean clinched Sunday’s crucial 2-1 win over arch rivals Liverpool.
Ferguson’s side trailed to an early goal from Fernando Torres at Old Trafford, but Wayne Rooney equalised before Park scored the winner in the 60th minute with a brave diving header.
It was only the Korean midfielder’s third goal of the season, but those strikes have come in big games against Arsenal, AC Milan and now Liverpool — confirming Ferguson’s belief that Park is especially valuable in high-stakes encounters.
“It was very tight and Liverpool are good at stopping you playing,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.
“But you have got to be patient and we scored a tremendous goal from Park Ji-Sung, who played another vital role for us.”
Ferguson also highlighted Nemanja Vidic’s display as the Serbian defender generally kept Torres in check after his fifth-minute strike.
Vidic had been sent off in his previous three appearances against Liverpool and suffered a torrid time against Torres last season, but Ferguson was more impressed by his performance this time.
“Vidic was magnificent,” he said. “Torres has maybe tried to burst the ball with his late chance, but that was the only break we got in the game really.
“I am sure it wasn’t a classic, but it was so intense and you could not take your eyes off it — there was no-one watching on television who went for a cup of tea, that is for sure.”
Ferguson also said Javier Mascherano should have been sent off for the foul on Antonio Valencia that led to United’s first-half penalty, which was converted on a rebound by Rooney after Jose Reina saved the striker’s spotkick.
“I thought the penalty kick decision was a red card, because I don’t see how anyone could have stopped Valencia from shooting. That is a goalscoring opportunity as far as I am concerned,” Ferguson said.
Park’s goal sent United back to the top of the Premier League, two points clear of second-placed Arsenal, but Ferguson admits the title race is set to go down to the wire.
“We have a very experienced back four, a very experienced goalkeeper and that gives us a real outstanding chance, albeit with seven difficult matches — but we have all got difficult matches, so what does it matter?” he said.
“It could very well go to the wire, if you look at the run-ins for the teams.”
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez felt his side were worth a draw and he said: “It was very tight, they did not have too many chances, and neither did we. With two top sides, it is always the little things which are the difference, and they were the better in these.
“After the goal, I always said it is about how you can control the game, and we could not, as we conceded early.
“In the second half, you could see Manchester United are a good team, but they did not have too many options and with a bit of luck, it could have been a draw.”
Liverpool are four points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and Benitez admitted they are in danger of missing out on Champions League action next season.
“It will be difficult, but we still have to fight,” he said. “There are still a lot of points to play for, so we have to keep going and see what happens in the next game.” (SW/MG/rex)