|Birthdate:||30 Apr 1981|
|United Debut:||13 Oct 1999 v Aston Villa (A)|
|International||Rep of Ireland|
Match-winning striker, full-back, midfielder, even goalkeeper – United’s utility player has done it all.
A shining example of selflessness and professionalism, John O’Shea has been ever-willing in his service of United. Whether coming on from the bench or in the starting line-up, he is ready for the fight from the second his boots touch the turf.
In his first full season, 2002/03, O’Shea was an absolute revelation at left-back: galumphing up and down the wing, effortlessly picking the pockets of opponents who ran at him, cheekily nutmegging those who tried to stop him – most notably Luis Figo –
he was one of the star men as United regained the Premiership.
Sadly, as so often happens with young stars in their second season, O’Shea’s gradient levelled off throughout 2003/04. And when United bought Gaby Heinze in the summer of 2004, he had to look to other positions than left-back for regular action. Thankfully, O’Shea has the tools to play pretty much anywhere. He was always a footballing defender, blessed with beautiful balance, crisp passing and formidable upper-body strength, and that enabled him to slip into midfield as well as anywhere across the back four.
In 2004/05 he played in all those positions, and in the following season he began to establish himself in the holding role in midfield – forming an unlikely but extremely effective partnership with Ryan Giggs that was the basis of United’s late-season surge. The Irish international continued where he'd left off at the start of the 2006/07 campaign, but soon saw his chances limited by the burgeoning midfield partnership between Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick.
He still went on to make 49 appearances (including a cameo between the posts at White Hart Lane when Edwin van der Sar suffered a broken nose) and chipped in with five goals, the most
memorable of which came at Anfield in March 2007. Pepe Reina could only parry Cristiano Ronaldo's injury-time free kick and the ball fell to substitute O'Shea who coolly swept it home in front of the Kop to the delight of United fans everywhere.
He netted another crucial strike at Goodison Park a month later, stabbing home the Reds' first goal after Iain Turner had spilled Ryan Giggs' corner. United, of course, went on to seal a thrilling 4-2 victory and eventually their ninth Premiership title. O'Shea signed a three year contract extension in November 2007 which will keep him at the club until June 2012.