The Cup Disruption

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that Manchester United will be without Ji-Sung Park for at least seven games due to his involvement in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, which offers up yet another tasty “club vs. country” argument.

Park, who scored the lone goal in United’s latest triumph over Arsenal, is clearly in the best form during his six-year United stay, so it will obviously be a huge loss for Ferguson to be without him during their grueling schedule in January.

No matter where a critic stands on the highly-debated topic, if this was one of their season’s best performers, they would be completely up in arms about losing Park to play in some quasi tournament for South Korea.

If this was the world cup, or the European championships then fine, go and play for your country, but this a pointless, disrupting tournament, which only guarantees a place in another half-watched tournament, the FIFA Confederations Cup.

To be fair on Park, and taking into consideration that he not only serves as the The Tigers of Asia’s captain, but he is also an iconic figure in the Korea Republic, which should help his fellow countrymen in their time of complete duress.

His hands were virtually tied as to whether he was going to participate or not, but the AFC Asian Cup 2011, like African Cup of Nations, is being played this year smack dab in the middle of the Barclays Premier League season.

The interesting reason as to why this tournament is played at this time, is because of the high temperatures during the summer months in Qatar, which is where the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

FIFA, who has been subjected to some severe aggression by the English media for ruling out England’s bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, should not be the only that faces blame for this, though.

So this is not only another “club vs. country” saga, but also a club vs. its own country.

The very greedy Premier League chiefs have ruled against having either a month-long break that is offered to Bundesliga teams, or a two-week refresher which is given to La Liga teams, which would allow a club like United a much-needed rest.

Instead, United plays eight, potentially 10, important matches on some very heavy pitches – unplayable if you were to ask Arsene Wenger – before the end of January.

The Reds may have to make up their match-in-hand against Blackpool, which could happen sometime between their match with Tottenham and Birmingham City.

Then if United beat Liverpool in the Third Round Proper, they will advance to the round of the FA Cup, which is to be played on the last weekend in January.

The Premier League has also placed restrictions on their club’s 25-man squads, and they obviously did not take into consideration this, or any other, tournament that happens during their nine-month season.

If this is to punish their big money-making clubs, then it is hypocritical and unfounded, because without a Manchester United, the Premier League loses its marketing power.

Having some of the top players from different countries is how the Premier League, and United, can sell and attract themselves, but the poor attempt to limiting the amount to allow more English-born players to participate in the top tier could very well be detrimental to their long-term plans.

The 25-man squad rule has to be seen as a real joke, and another poor attempt for the Football Association to inject their influence on the Premier League and appease the nation.

Arsenal started only one English international, Jack Wilshere, but the Gunners played 14 minutes without one after his withdrawal on 63 minutes, and until Theo Walcott was introduced in the 77th.

A lot of pundits are very condescending of Sir Alex Ferguson for having such a large squad, but over the next month-and-a-half, the entire Manchester United squad will be used to ensure that the Reds will be competing for honors in all competitions.

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