“When Jonny goes marching down the wing O’Shea, O’Shea, when Jonny goes marching down the wing O’Shea, O’Shea, when Jonny goes marching down the wing, the Stretford End will fucking sing we all know that Jonny’s gonna score.”
They say that bad news comes in twos and it looks like stereotypes are fitting, as today it is confirmed that John O’Shea is undergoing a medical at Sunderland ahead of a proposed unveiling of the player on Thursday alongside Wes Brown. The United handyman has figured in every of the last 12 seasons in one way or another, whether it has been firing in a winning goal against Arsenal in the Champions League, nutmegging the world’s best players or keeping out a goal between the sticks against Tottenham for the last 5 minutes; his versatility has meant that he has been important figure in the United set-up for a long time but the curtains seem set to close on what has been a steady career for the Irishman.
After breaking into the first team in 2002/3 as a left-back, over the years O’Shea characterised professionalism and selflessness for the team as he became the go-to man for almost every position when injuries struck. To most players, the knock-backs that O’Shea received may well have frustrated them to the point where they moved teams; in the 2004/5 season, he became a formidable holding midfielder and his partnership with Ryan Giggs was a mainstay in the United team but after Michael Carrick came in, he found himself not to be the first-choice anymore yet continued to play wherever he could, still notching up 49 appearances in the season. It is a testament to the player that O’Shea is; no United fan will tell you that he is the best player in the world at any position that he has played but in terms of ability to be there when he was needed and to do the job well, not many players come close to the reliability that O’Shea provides.
His best season as a United player undoubtedly came in the 2008/9 double winning season as he became an integral part of the United defence that broke Premier League records by keeping 14 consecutive clean sheets, a time in which O’Shea had 11 starts and 2 substitute appearances. The strength of body and discipline of mind just made him a great footballer and it is why SAF always had such great faith in the Irishman. It is a shame that he missed most of the 2009/10 season with an injury sustained on International duty because I am sure that he would of played his part and helped stop Chelsea from winning the title that season. As far as opportunities go, the 2010/11 season was quite limited with the growth of Rafael and Fabio but reliable John still managed to clock up 32 appearances despite this.
As for memories with O’Shea, it is impossible to ignore his shining moment in a United shirt, an injury time goal at the Kop end of Anfield that kept United in the title race in the season. Considering he openly admitted that he was a Liverpool fan in his youth, you can be forgiven for thinking that he didn’t slightly enjoy scoring this crucial goal.
Despite all the wonderful memories and the sadness that overcomes many a United fan with his departure, the time is right for him to move on. He deserves the first team football he has craved for so long and in joining Wes Brown and Steve Bruce at Sunderland, as well as possibly Darron Gibson in the not-so-distant future, he could still feature for a good few years yet and provide some longevity to his career. As for United, SAF has obviously chosen to let O’Shea move on because of the new blood that has come into the squad; Phil Jones is our new versatility man and I think SAF would rather give the minutes to him and see his progression, which must have been a defining reason as to why he let one of his most reliable players leave. The progression of Rafael and Fabio also meant that O’Shea wouldn’t have had much of a look in for the full back positions, so all the pointers were there that this is a correct decision from both a player and a club perspective.
Despite all these logical insights, it is still sad to see yet another experienced veteran leave Old Trafford; Scholes, Van Der Sar, Neville, Brown, Van Der Sar and O’Shea all in one season? This is too much to bare. We are witnessing the beginnings of a completely new era at Old Trafford and I hope that it can provide us with great football like this era has left behind. I wish John all the best of luck at Sunderland and I think Steve Bruce is the right man to get the best out of him and Brown, maybe Sunderland will push for Europe next year, who knows. Good luck big man (Mignolet…watch your back, you might be ousted by John!)