BERLIN (AFP) ― South Korea’s Son Heung-min has said the pressure will be off Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday at Manchester United with coach David Moyes under the spotlight in his first Champions League match.
Son says Leverkusen has little to lose with the focus on Moyes at Old Trafford as he begins the next chapter in United’s proud European history having succeeded the legendary Alex Ferguson.
“The mood is good in the Bayer squad and we don’t have much to lose in England,” the 21-year-old striker told AFP.
|Son Heung-min (left) has started on the left wing in all five of Leverkusen’s Bundesliga matches this season. (AP-Yonhap News)|
“Manchester United are the clear favorites.
“That’s not the worst position to go into a game and it’s obviously a great start for us.
“Old Trafford is one of the most famous stadiums in the world and Manchester United are one of the world’s biggest clubs.
“United haven’t had perhaps the best start to the season, but there is no need to discuss the quality of the trainer and the team.
“David Moyes coached Everton for years, he has plenty of Premier League experience and he has got a world-class team.
“It is going to be special to play there, for sure.”
While there will be lots of interest in Bayer, Son says there is no pressure to emulate its Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, who contested May’s Champions League final at Wembley.
“No one would expect that from us and we’d be well advised not to build castles in the sky and just take it one step at a time,” he said.
“We want to play at the top of the Bundesliga, the way Bayer did last season, and in the Champions League, we want to get through the group phase.
“That will be hard enough with Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad in our group.
“But we’re highly motivated and not an easy opponent for the others either.”
Son’s hunger for Champions League football took him from Hamburg, whom he joined as a raw 16-year-old in 2008, to Leverkusen in July to work under Sami Hyypia, the ex-Liverpool captain.
A host of Premier League clubs ― including Manchester United ― were reported to have courted the talented striker, but his desire for regular football saw him opt for Leverkusen.
Son has started on the left wing in all five of Leverkusen’s Bundesliga matches this season, scoring in the opening 3-1 win against Freiburg.
Having spent five years here, Son speaks excellent German, but admits it was a culture shock to switch his hometown of Chuncheon for Hanseatic Hamburg.
“I was 16 when I first came to Germany. At first I shared a small flat with two other South Korean boys and my parents later followed me to Hamburg,” he said.