As Sunderland prepare to take on Manchester United this weekend it will be an interesting experience for a player that spent 12 years at Old Trafford.
John O’Shea knows his team need to pick up points to help them pull away from the relegation zone but it cannot be easy for someone take on a former club where he had so many great times. He signed professional terms at Manchester United at the age of 17 and made his debut against Aston Villa in 1999.
Unsurprisingly he could not break into the first team just yet but he did make 10 appearances on loan at Bournemouth and another 14 at Belgian club Antwerp before becoming a regular in the squad during the 2002-03 season. During the campaign he played right back, left back, centre back and central midfield showing that he was going to be an important player as his versatility meant he could plug any gaps in the team. At the end of the season he picked up the first of his five league medals and then in his next season he started in the centre of defence as the club won the FA Cup.
After a difficult 2004-05 season he was linked with moves away but he did provide one of the greatest moments of the season as he chipped Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia in a 4-2 victory. Speaking of goalkeepers, O’Shea can also add that to positions he can play. In a game against Tottenham Hotspur in 2007 he was forced to play in goal for the final few minutes and pulled off a save from Republic of Ireland teammate Robbie Keane which led to the United fans singing ‘Ireland’s number one.’
A month later he became even more of a fan favourite by scoring an injury time winner against Liverpool at Anfield. It was an important goal as it helped the club win the title. At the end of the season he finished with 100% shooting accuracy and scored five goals in all competitions, his highest so far.
He continued playing in a variety of positions for the next few seasons including striker which meant he had played in every position. In 2009 came his biggest moment as he was picked to start the Champions League final with manager Alex Ferguson saying. “He can play anywhere for me: all along the back four, midfield – he’s even played in goal for a short period. He takes his place in Rome because he deserves it.” Unfortunately they lost to Barcelona 2-0.
O’Shea made 393 appearances in total for Manchester United but on the 7th July 2011 he signed for Sunderland. Former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce who was manager of Sunderland 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 the player we have signed.”
His time at Sunderland has been up and down with a lot of injuries and a lot of managerial changes but he is hoping to help the club avoid relegation after being bottom at Christmas and become only the second club to achieve this.
The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “He was instrumental in a lot of our successes over the years. He is a fantastic professional. I love him in terms of his attitude and loyalty to the club.”