MANCHESTER, May 21 – Park Ji-Sung has admitted that missing out on last season's Champions League final was more painful than either of the two serious knee injuries he has suffered in his career.And the Korean ace is desperate to make up for it by ensuring he is on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team-sheet for this year’s final, against Barcelona in Rome next week.
Ferguson has described the decision to leave Park out of the 18-man matchday squad for last season’s final win over Chelsea in Moscow as one of the hardest he has made in more than three decades as a manager.
But Park has continued to perform consistently for United this season and has been regularly involved in key games for the Old Trafford club.
Earlier in the season, Ferguson insisted that Park would be in his starting line-up if United reached the Champions League final again.
And even though Park remains cautious about his prospects of facing Barcelona in Rome, he feels stronger for the misery of being left out last time around.
He said: "Nobody knows until the first whistle so I’m just concentrating on the training and waiting to see how it goes. If I play I’ll do my best."
Reflecting on last season’s bitter let down, he recalled: "I was very disappointed because all players want to be involved in games like the Champions League final. If they have a chance and then don’t play, it hurts and it’s heart-breaking.
"But our team won the title so I’m happy because I’m part of the team but not being in the squad was quite heart-breaking for me.
"That has helped motivate me for this season and after that I believe that Manchester United can reach the final again then I want to be there.
"I’ve worked hard and believed that and finally I have another chance so this time is different.
"It was probably the biggest disappointment. I also had cruciate ligament injuries but they’re two different kinds of things for me."
Park has struck up a close friendship with Carlos Tevez and hopes the Argentina forward remains at Old Trafford for next season.
Tevez’s two-year loan deal with United expires at the end of the season and the striker admits he may have to leave.
But Park feels that Tevez has made a major impact for United and would be badly missed.
He added: "It’s very difficult for everyone involved at Manchester United because he’s the best player so we need him.
"It’s his decision but hopefully he will stay. This season he’s scored a lot of goals, helped the team and saved the team. He works hard and scores a lot of goals."
Park admits he can not explain his incredible fitness levels but thinks that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher rival him for work-rate.
He joked: "Maybe it’s the Korean food. Some players can run as well like Fletcher or Rooney as well. It’s not just me."
The midfielder enjoys a quiet life away from football and accepts that unlike in South Korea, he is not a major star in the Premier League.
But he insists that he is unconcerned that he does not rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney in the celebrity stakes.
He said: "The cultures are different and Asian fans chase me and shout at me and it’s different in England. When I go back to Korea then maybe I can’t walk in the street.
"I don’t want to be a famous or popular guy, I just want to be a good player. I just like to be calm off the pitch."
Park feels he has made major improvements since joining United in 2005.
There has been speculation about a contract extension for the former PSV Eindhoven player and he wants to stay at Old Trafford for as long as possible.
He said: "I’m not sure because no-one knows the future but I want to be here longer and as long as I can.
"The manager is always encouraging to me because I can do certain things and even if I don’t score a lot he believed in me and he’s helped me."