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John O’Shea needed ‘oxygen tank’ after playing against Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003

Manchester United signed a relatively unknown player in Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2003, the same summer that David Beckham left the club after a bust up with manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Before Ronaldo was signed by United, the club has a pre-season friendly with his club and as former United defender and captain Rio Ferdinand puts his, his teammate, John O’Shea needed an ‘oxygen tank’ after the match because of the performance of the 18-year-old Portuguese winger.

United were beaten 3-1 by Sporting Lisbon in that match but it had allowed Ferguson to see more of Ronaldo, who was tipped to be a player of a new generation of the time, and they were right. Ferguson was adamant to sign the 18-year-old, which he did only a matter of days later but O’Shea was left feeling dead on his feet after United were given the runaround by the Portuguese club. Speaking as part of EA SPORTS and COPA90’s “Stay Home. Play Together” campaign and reported by The Sun, Ferdinand said:

“We played against Sporting in 2003, we get in at half-time and John O’Shea must’ve needed an oxygen tank next to him.

“He was in bits and he was sitting there panting. We were telling him to get closer to Ronaldo and he couldn’t even answer us.

“To be fair, me, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt were standing there going ‘this kid’s unbelievable, we’ve got to sign him’.

“We got on the coach and we were delayed for about an hour and a half, and then they said they were doing a deal to sign Ronaldo now.”

Of course, the rest is history with Ronaldo signing for the Old Trafford club for just £12.24 million less than a week after this match and the player was handed a starting role at the club and Beckham’s old shirt, the famous number seven. It was a while before Ronaldo started to show what he could do for the club, being tricky and quick as United looked to overcome the loss of Beckham but the England captain was soon forgotten as Ronaldo started to find his feet at the club. At the time he signed for United, Ronaldo said:

“I am very happy to be signing for the best team in the world, and especially proud to be the first Portuguese player to join Manchester United.

“I look forward to helping the team achieve even more success in the years to come.”

The player literally became one of, if not the best player in the world at United and in the summer of 2009, left for Real Madrid for £80 million. It was a big loss for United but the six years the player had at United literally kickstarted his career in world football. Ronaldo made a total 292 appearances for United, scoring 118 goal and 69 assists. At United, Ronaldo won three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, one FA Community Shield, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup. Individually though, Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or at United being the first United player since George Best (1968) and Sir Bobby Charlton (1966)to win the award.

Written by John Walker

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

copyright: JW