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Red Icons: John O’Shea; 12 years a red and winning some imaginable trophies

From chipping Manuel Almunia at Highbury and nutmegging Luis Figo to playing in goal against Tottenham Hotspur and scoring a match winner against Liverpool in front of the Kop, John O’Shea has had many memorable moments to accompany his incredible list of honours. O’Shea comes from a suburb in Waterford City known as Ferrybank. The suburb sits across the opposite side of the river Suir from Waterford City itself.

The type of person he is, O’Shea frequently visits his hometown and stays true to his roots unlike many modern-day professionals. The loyalty shown to his roots has been reflected in his footballing career and benefitted him greatly over a 12-year stay at Old Trafford. O’Shea crossed the Irish Sea at the tender age of 17 to attempt a career in English football. Many Irish youngsters will do the same thing every year. However, few will play for the biggest club in the world for as long as O’Shea did and few will still be playing Championship football at the age of 37.

O’Shea’s career is a testament to the character of the man and that he has gone beyond success in a field where so many have failed. Although he made his debut in his first season during 1999, O’Shea did not feature regularly for the reds until the 2002/2003 season. Previously he had enjoyed loan spells at Bournemouth and Belgian side Royal Antwerp. His versatility became a useful ingredient in Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League winning side. O’Shea featured at left-back, centre-back, right-back and central midfield during his first regular Premier League campaign.

If ever a player was injured or suspended John O’Shea could step up and do a more than capable job at replacing the missing player. For numerous years at Old Trafford, the starting defence consisted of Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Like his teammate Wes Brown, whenever called upon, O’Shea would step up and provide the goods. His finest moment in a United shirt is, without doubt, his goal at Anfield in the dying minutes of the game.

United travelled to Anfield in March 2007 top of the league table with Chelsea on their tails. It was a must-win game for United as they needed to keep Chelsea out of reach from top spot. The score was 0-0 going into the 90th minute when United were awarded a free kick on the left-hand side of the pitch, just outside the box. Cristiano Ronaldo put a low and hardball right in front of the goal and the ball came bouncing out and fell to O’Shea’s feet.

As they say, the rest is history as O’Shea smashed the ball against the roof of the net and lead to both United players and fans celebrating. It was one of the crucial moments in United’s league winning season of 2006/2007. Perhaps it will be the most prominent memory fans will have of the Irishman. Along with having achieved 117 international caps for the Republic of Ireland, O’Shea has won trophies many of the games most gifted players can only dream of.

Over 12 years at Manchester United, O’Shea has won five Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups, four FA Community Shields, a UEFA Champions League and a FIFA Club World Cup. He is only behind former United players Roy Keane, Denis Irwin and former Liverpool player Ronnie Whelan as the Republic of Ireland’s most decorated footballer. John O’Shea should be remembered by Manchester United fans as a player who gave it all every time he wore the shirt and never complained no matter what position he was played in.

A problem with the current United team is some players feel they underperform when played out of their preferred position. Although a cliché, John O’Shea was happy to play anywhere just once he was on the pitch. He has also produced and won illustrious trophies playing in many positions. John O’Shea has been one of Manchester United’s greatest servants for what he has contributed to the club. Honesty, loyalty, and versatility have been just some of the characteristics to O’Shea’s Old Trafford career.

Written by Shane Purcell

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