By Lee Savery
John O’Shea has followed Wes Brown in joining Sunderland for an undisclosed fee. He has signed a four year contract with the Tyne-Tees club and is their sixth summer signing.
O’Shea was born in Waterford, Ireland on 30th April 1981. O’Shea was spotted by United scouts while playing for his home town academy team Waterford Bohemians. He then moved into the United academy before signing a professional at the age of 17. It was reported that Liverpool had looked at O’Shea too but they did not see his potential. He made his first team début in the League Cup defeat at Aston Villa in 1999. He spent the next two years on loan at Bournemouth and Belgian feeder club Royal Antwerp respectively.
On his return, the 2002-2003 season would be his breakthrough season. He demonstrated his versatility all season long, playing across the whole of defence and in centre-midfield. His performance against Newcastle United, that season, made me believe he would be a good player for the club.
However his performances for the club, in the three seasons after, did not win over all fans and some referred to him as justa “utility” player. Roy Keane was also unconvinced as O’Shea was, reportedly, one of the players he lambasted for not being good enough for the club in the infamously banned interview. However, his performances improved and his importance to the team was obvious on the pitch as United regained the league in 2007 and again in 2008 & 2009.
O’Shea leaves us with some memorable moments from his time at the club. In 2005 he scored a sublime lob, after picking up a superb Paul Scholes pass, in a 4-2 win over Arsenal at Highbury. An unforgettable game in what was a forgettable season. This goal would however be topped with a tap-in at Anfield.
Man United were in pole position for the title when United played Liverpool in March 2007 but it was Liverpool who were the better side for much of the game. A free-kick in stoppage time struck by Cristiano Ronaldo was saved by Pepe Reina before the ball dropped to O’Shea who put the ball into the roof of the net to secure a dramatic win. A 90th minute winner at Anfield and at The Kop end would make sure John O’Shea’s name would be remembered by United fans forever.
One of his bizarre moments as a United player came at White Hart Lane (Also in 2007). After United had made all three substitutes, Edwin Van der Sar broke his nose and needed to leave the pitch. It was O’Shea that stepped up to take his place in the goal. In a lively five minutes, he denied his Irish team-mate Robbie Keane with a good save. This save led to laughter from Wayne Rooney sitting on the bench. The next season he would also play as a striker which meant he has the distinction of being the only United player in history to play in every position.
Overall, John O’Shea made 393 appearances and scored 15 goals. He has 15 winners medals in his collection including five from the Premier League and one from the Champions League.
Steve Bruce was happy to complete this deal for Sunderland. He said, “John has been a solid, consistent part of Manchester United’s squad for well over a decade which goes to show the fantastic pedigree of player we have signed.”
O’Shea also talked about the move, “Once I’d heard reports about the club and the people here, the ambitions and what the manager was all about, this was the only place I was going to come to.” 1
This move completes two thirds of an ambitious bid for three of United’s “squad players” by Sunderland. It remains to be seen whether Darron Gibson will follow his United team-mates to Tee side. Next season you could mistake Sunderland as being our “B-team” considering they could name a back four of ex-United players with Phil Bardsley, Kieran Richardson and Fraizer Campbell already at the club.
I am going to miss O’Shea. That safety of having that one player who could play anywhere at any time is something the squad will miss. Will we ever have another player like him? In terms of the “bigger picture”, I suppose a player like O’Shea will not be missed. However, he leaves us with some great memories and I am sure he will create some more for the fans of Sunderland alongside Wes Brown. Sunderland have pulled off quite a deal to bring the two to the Stadium of Light.
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