Source : Goal.com
Should Dong Fangzhuo Leave Manchester United?
It is a familiar picture for followers of the Premier League and Manchester United: the trophy, the champagne, the smiles and the awkward dancing. A little less familiar for United fans is the figure of Dong Fangzhuo.
It wasn't supposed to be this way when the Chinese player joined United. Amazingly, that was over four years ago. Time, rather than Dong down the wing, has flown and now it is time for the 23 year-old to leave Old Trafford.
Excited as media and fans were at the time when he left Chinese powerhouse Dalian Shide, it was obvious that it the-then 19 year-old wasn't going to break into the first team anytime soon. Whether or not he had the talent was immaterial; he didn't even have a work permit.
To solve that problem, the attacker was sent across the channel to Antwerp. Sir Alex Ferguson hoped that three years spent in the centre of the world's diamond trade would also help polish Dong into a Premier League performer. The news that filtered north-west to Manchester was encouraging. Royal Antwerp are hardly giants of the Flemish football scene but after a slow start, Dong started to impress. Hopes were high that when the player returned to England, he would be set to dazzle defences.
It was an exciting prospect for fans both in Manchester and the Middle Kingdom. A genuine star of international class is always welcome but when he is Chinese, then it opens a whole new realm of possibilities, especially for a club never shy of seeking commercial advantages.
His Belgian beat over, the start of 2007 saw Dong finally become a bonafide Manchester United player. Again, the jump from Antwerp to the top of the Premier League was obviously a big one and while Chinese fans were desperate to see the forward in action in a red shirt, it was understood that he may need time. Dong was told to learn from Park Ji-sung by the Chinese media, and these articles still appear from time to time but now, as the Korean has established himself as an important part of the United team, the former Dalian Shide star is nowhere to be seen.
Sightings of the striker in a red shirt have been restricted to United's exhibition matches in the Far East, the Carling Cup and a meaningless appearance in the Premier and Champions League. While it would be hard for any player to do so given such few opportunities, the sad fact is that in these games he has showed little to indicate that he has what it takes to be a significant player for the English, and possibly European, champions.
It is clear that Dong has no future at the club. At best, he is as close now to a place in the first team as he was 18 months ago. In all probablity however, he is as close as he was when he first joined the club in January 2004 and his slide down the pecking order is likely to continue as Fergie splashes the cash this summer. Cynics have always suggested that the player is on the club's books in order to sell the club's shirts. It will become increasingly difficult to disagree with them as his staying time increases and playing time doesn't.
Dong needs to leave Old Trafford and find a team where he actually has a shot of playing for the first team. The one positive in not making it at Manchester United is that even though a player has to make a step down to the next level, that level can contains some pretty attractive options.
China's national team coach, whether that is Ratomir Dujkovic or Vladamir Petrovic, will be hoping that Dong makes that step. Assuming China make it through to the final round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup - a fairly big assumption to make at this stage - a Dong in regular action week in, week out in Europe could be a boon as China look to appear on the global stage for only a second time.
But mostly for his own sake, Dong needs to find a new club.