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Why We Should Be Gutted To See O’Shea Go

A few months in to the season, after Rafael da Silva started playing regularly at right back, I was frustrated that the manager had started John O’Shea there for so much of the season. Rafael was great going forward and tenacious in defence, whilst O’Shea just seemed to bumble along, doing his job.

That’s the thing with O’Shea, the player who was once tipped to reach great heights, who once said he was unprepared to have his position chopped and changed, and who once nutmegged Luis Figo, he never fulfilled the potential we thought he had, but he always did a job.

He isn’t first choice in any of the positions but he’s reliable enough in all of them. I’d rather not see him in the midfield and we have better players than him at full-back, yet when we have an injury or need to rotate to rest our players, he’s a great stand in.

He’s experienced and has played in massive games, whether that be against our fiercest rivals, in European Cup semi-finals or cup finals. There’s no occasion that could overwhelm him and that wealth of experience can’t be bought. Looking at the current squad, only Ryan Giggs has more appearances for United than him.

O’Shea has been at United his whole life and knows as well as any the “United way”. After losing the presence of Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Wes Brown in the dressing room, I don’t think it would be wise to lose another one. Whilst I can’t imagine that O’Shea is the most authoritative member of the team, he sets an example like any of our old boys do and I don’t think that can be underestimated. Whilst Sir Alex Ferguson is an obvious constant in our recent glory years, we shouldn’t overlook the fact we’ve always had homegrown talent in the team too. We’ve got young players coming through but they’re not there yet. It’s important to have players like O’Shea around.

Finally, it’s hard to avoid the sentimentality in keeping O’Shea at the club. I won’t pretend that I don’t feel attached to the Irishman for irrational feelings about his attitude towards the club and the length of time he’s spent here. Sir Alex recently said it was hard to avoid sentimentality with his players and that he had struggled to tell Nicky Butt and Phil Neville it was time for them to move on. Whilst not wanting to criticise O’Shea, I believe those two players had bigger aspirations than him. They both went on to captain the clubs they left for and put first team football ahead being a United player. That is fair enough. But in the last five years, I’ve never got that impression of John’s priorities. He has been our utility man, played when needed, where needed, and seems happy to do so.

For United to accept the offer for him will obviously have made him think though. Why that offer from Sunderland was accepted is still beyond me though. Our available full-backs are Evra, Rafael and Fabio, with the latter two struggling to ever play 90 minutes. Jonny Evans plays at left back for his country and did a good job in that position against Chelsea last year, but that defensive role is not usually required from a United full back. O’Shea is far superior to Evans in that respect. There is also the possibility of Smalling playing at full-back and he does enjoy to get forward, but again, he’s not as skilled as O’Shea in this position and I wonder what the merits are of watering down his natural ability in the centre of the park.

So, with the pitiful amount of money that was accepted for Gibson, Brown and O’Shea from Sunderland, a total of £12m, will the club be planning on buying another full-back? That would certainly soften the blow of losing O’Shea and at least make more sense of the decision to sell him, but it still wouldn’t justify it for me and honestly, I can’t see us spending cash on a full-back when it’s looking like we’ve still yet to splash out top dollar for a world class central midfielder. If we were to spend, would we find an experienced full-back for a few million quid who was happy to play if and when? It’s unlikely.

Both Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce have said a deal for O’Shea is close though, so this was probably written in vain, but I will be genuinely gutted to see John wearing another club’s shirt and hope there’s a last minute spanner in the works.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. CedarsDevil says:

    Samuel – united WE stand

    The club should never be run on sentiment and Sir Alex is the shrewdest in the business so I agree with you….. However for the supporters its all about sentiment….. Was it not a sad day for us supporters when the likes of Robbo, Cantona, Scholes, Neville retired? Or when the likes of Keano moved on?

  2. Costas says:


    If the club wasn’t built on sentiments, why were Scholes, Giggs and Edwin asked to stay at he end of this season? Brown’s time was probably up ever since he supposedly called Fergie a cunt, but I disagree about O’Shea. Any team needs a 4th full back.

  3. Passe says:

    No one has mentioned the goal O’shea scored against Arsenal in the CL semis in 09. An important goal in a narrow 1-0 victory that sent United towards a second consecutive final. Loyal servant, without any drama.

    Valencia at RB should only be used in dire situations when we are chasing a game. Playing people out of position is never good and I don’t think Valencia is good enough defensively, looking at both the blackburn game and West Ham away.

  4. Balaji Sivaraman says:


    I agree with Cedars and Costas on this one. While you are fine with O’Shea being moved on, a certain populace of United supporters will not be. That does not mean they’re wrong or that they don’t see the practicality of the situation. It is just that they find it harder to accept and move on compared to people like you.

    I was strickened with sadness when Butt and Phil Neville were sold. I started supporting United during their peak years and identified United with people like them – just like I do with people like O’Shea and Brown now – so I was obviously distraught when they were sold.

    In O’Shea’s case, as we’ve argued over, it is not just a case of sentimentality. What happens if we have an injury crisis like the one we had two years ago? We used Fletcher and Carrick in the centre of defense and guess who we used out wide – Yup, you got it right, Mr. John O’Shea. That is the reason this sale baffles me. Another issue is that we’ve got no real indication of any full back being promoted from the Youth Side. Of course, I am not that familiar with the reserves, so somebody else maybe able to help me.

    @Cedars, Oh yeah, I love the banter too mate. All I’m saying is that if the banter doesn’t involve you, then just move on to the actual debates and posts about United of which there are very many on this wonderful blog. There is no need to insult the people having the banter just because you are not part of it.

  5. Samuel - united WE stand says:

    Cedars – you can’t those compare super talented players to john o’shea. Cantona, scholes were brilliant even when age was against them, with o’shea even at 30 and maybe in peak fitness, all you will ever get his steady ok performances, he’ll never improve and with the younger players, he will not make benches anymore.

    I appreciate his loyalty and the job he did, he will be missed but personally for me, the team comes first and obviously the manager thinks they ain’t got anything to add to the team so have to move on, it happens.

  6. CedarsDevil says:

    Samuel – united WE stand

    Not disagreeing with you, however each supporter has certain sentiments towards certain players and that is their right…. When George Best passed away I wept like a child, that is my sentiment…. Being a supporter is all about sentiments, however clubs are not run on emotions and that is where I agree with you…


    Fully understood, its just sad that we have so many juvenile attention seeking, jealous little cunts that post here at times

  7. Samuel - united WE stand says:

    Costas – edwin, scholes, giggs stayed for there experience but more importantly for there talents, they’ve being brilliant into there veteran ages, they were contributing massively too until time caught up and legs can’t carry them anymore, they justified why they were in the team.

    As for o’shea, brown e.t.c, they’d struggle to make the bench with the amount of quality defenders we have at the back.

    we can always promote a youth player if its a 4th full back we want, i mean de laet ain’t doing badly is he? obviously they’ll lack experience but more games will cut that out.t.c, they’d struggle to make the bench with the amount of quality defenders we have at the back.

    we can always promote a youth player if its a 4th full back we want, i mean de laet ain’t doing badly is he? obviously they’ll lack experience but more games will cut that out.

  8. Samuel - united WE stand says:

    balaji – fair enough, not doubting o’shea’s reliability to the team, he has being a great servant albeit not a regular one but done with minimum fuss.

    I think just like butt, phil neville, sir alex just can’t promise him games anymore and i guess he chose to move on to the wearside rather than play for the reserves.

    You know sir alex, he probably has worked something out based on cover for injured defenders, he never makes decisions without deep thoughts.

    and i’m not saying fans shouldn’t get attached or feel any sentimentality towards players, of course we can because its what fans do but i’m just basing my opinion around what’s good for them and what’s good for john o’shea.balaji – fair enough, not doubting o’shea’s reliability to the team, he has being a great servant albeit not a regular one but done with minimum fuss.

    I think just like butt, phil neville, sir alex just can’t promise him games anymore and i guess he chose to move on to the wearside rather than play for the reserves.

    You know sir alex, he probably has worked something out based on cover for injured defenders, he never makes decisions without deep thoughts.

    and i’m not saying fans shouldn’t get attached or feel any sentimentality towards players, of course we can because its what fans do but i’m just basing my opinion around what’s good for them and what’s good for john o’shea.

  9. Samuel - united WE stand says:

    Cedars – fair enough, like i said every fan is entitled to being sentimental, o’shea has being a good steady player at this club, he came through the ranks and stayed for years, won everything, he will be sorely missed.

  10. 7even says:

    Labelled as one of the most versatile players in the Premier League, it is understandable that a lot of fans, and no doubt team mates are sad to see him leave. Echoing Jeet I have to say at times I’ve groaned when he has given away possession, and even at times when I’ve seen him on the team sheet. Yet at other times I’ve been relieved knowing he was playing at right back as opposed to other players being taken away from their natural positions. He just got on with it. Bittersweet. At 30 I can see where John might be coming from and wish him the best of luck, but on we shall march.

  11. Costas says:


    I mentioned the 3 veterans because it was suggested that Wes and JOS are leaving to make room for the youngsters. Yet, we asked Scholes to stay around for 11-12 even though Cleverley was returning to the club and Gibson could have gotten more games under his belt.

    I agree about De Laet, but he was sent to Norwich in order to get more match practice. So since he is obviously not ready yet, I didn’t see the harm in keeping JOS one more year around. It’s not like he was keeping anyone back or moaning about not playing often. I’ll wait until the US tour to see of Fergie has plans to promote any full backs from the first team, but I am afraid that once we are down to one full back during the season, we’ll have to play someone out of position. That’s why I don’t believe that JOS would have struggled to make the bench. If anything, I think he would have started quite a few games, simply because the twins and Evra can’t play every game.

  12. Boris Hooligan Macedonia says:


    Yes Samuel , great personality is very, very important in building team spirit …and making big results!

    And of cores that we will be sentimental …we are UNITED ,our team is build on sentimental basic, our team becomes what it is today because of feelings .

    O`Shea is a great lad -who loves the club, who grownup with the club, and who adds depths in the club….so i prefer him to stay more than to bring some new player from Africa,Brazil or Argentina – who may be 2 times better than Johnny .

    We are United….and our power is not just in players abilities , we are strong because our mentality,history and cohesion !

    O`Shea is a great lad ,and he deserve to STAY !

  13. Clint-IamYourPapii says:

    Morning Red Buddies
    Balaji – Those long posts of yours have made me delirious :) Keep it up

    Now that its certain that O’Sheasy is leaving.
    Who will play against the Chelsea’s, the stokies,the boltons, the kevin davis’s of the league?
    We surely need tall defenders for the physical games, maybe jones & Evans & Smallings will be called upon those games to gain vital experience.

    Im guessing Lord Fergie wants Rafael + Fabio to play now 30+ Games. The twins will need to step up because next season they will need the dicipline to control themselves because their will be no hiding place behind experience now that we’ve lost Nev, Brown + Big John.

    Evra,fabio,smallings,rio,vida,jones,rafael,evans…Thats 8 but having 9/10 is more of a reliable figure in case of injuries maybe Reece Brown & Oliver Gill will get opportunites.Hasnt De Laet gone out on loan again to norwich?

    Final question….Have we sold anyone yet?

  14. King Eric says:

    Its funny. The amount on here that fucking moaned when he was on the teamsheet only to be gutted now.

    Costas – Hello mate. Yeah it does seem strange and I understand your concerns (not like you mate!) but I am pretty sure Fergie has summat lined up. He wont leave us short. Perhaps Reece Brown could step up.

  15. WHAT ??? says:

    Top player, and we will be weakened to see him go just because of his versatility. Having said that, the Twins, Evans, Smalling and Jones will never fully kick on knowing that Brown and O’Shea are around. Its a safety net that needs to be removed for the youngsters to fully develop. Sad news, but so was GNev and so was Scholes. We’ll march on and never forget.

    Its all about the Future now. All the best at Sunderland Pal.

  16. Costas says:

    Hi King Eric. It remains to be seen I guess. Whatever the case, I hope he is thinking about promoting one of the promising young full backs. I’ll will be really pissed of if we end up playing with Fletch, Valencia or Giggs in those positions. Same goes for Smalling, who has to start establishing himself as the anti Rio this season. Playing him as a right back will be a waste.

  17. Sparkz says:

    As gutted as I am that he’s leaving (always the case when a homegrown player does so)- I don’t think its the disaster people will make out.

    I think Rafael and Fabio’s fitness and endurance will be a notch up next season. Let’s not forget that Fabio played a fair few 90 minutes towards the end of the season.

    And I think Smalling is more than capable of doing a really good job at right back. It wouldn’t be “watering down” his abilities as a centre back, coz I’m sure the majority of matches he plays will be at CB. He’ll only be asked to play at RB when the twins are unavailable. He’s quick, strong, athletic- defensively really good and better going forward than JOS.

    So I don’t think we’ve got any problems at RB- 3 players for that position (and I think Jones has played there too).

    Slight possibility that we could have an issue at left back if Evra gets a long term injury. After him there’s Fabio and Evans- but as I said, I think Fabio’s fitness will greatly improve, and Fergie must think this as well. If Evans plays at left back, he’ll be very similar to JOS- defensively sound, not fantastic going forward- but if the full back on the opposite side is Rafael, Fabio or Smalling- we should be fine. Don’t always need to have 2 “fliers” on each full back position, otherwise how would big JOS have got so many games!

    One thing that does concern me though- if reports are to be believed and we only got £3m for JOS- that’s a bump! Seriously undervalued IMO, I think we should be looking for around £6m, when you consider he has 3 or 4 years left on his deal, is only 30, and has a wealth of experience at the highest level. Honestly think that £12m for Brown, O Shea and Gibson is £3-4m short.

  18. Costas says:

    @WHAT ???

    Hi mate. The other side of the coin to that, is whether the departure of Brown and O’Shea will make the youngsters more complacent. Competition is always healthy and I prefer player to be on their toes.

  19. dannysoya says:

    Too bad o’shea is gone. he was very important for team depth. very poor at the start of last season and at times i was very cross with him but i didn’t think he would get sold. he got a lot better in the second half of the season and returned to the o’shea we knew and loved.

    As for Wes leaving i think Fergie might want to give younger centre backs more of a look- in this season. United have a glut of centre backs. evans , rio, vidic, smalling, jones. that’s FIVE at CB. so i can understand why Fergie let Wes go.

  20. KingOfStretfordEnd says:

    I can’t imagine O’Shea in any other shirt but ours to be honest. It just feels terribly wrong.

  21. Mickjk says:

    You can’t buy what oshea and brown are to united

  22. mtm says:

    fergie is fucking crazy is pissing me off why to sell o’shea for peanuts then we dont have big backup in terms of fullbacks/ its mad from fergie

  23. scan74 says:

    Real shame think he could still be a good member of the squad

    but if its a done deal all the best for the future always done a good job for us loyal and a good player

    thanks for the memories

    especially that last minute at anfield a few years back get in there

  24. Jeet says:

    @King Eric at 11:19: Ok, I eat humble pie, happy?! Now stop rubbing salt into my wounds – as it is, I feel this big hollow in my heart…I never realized how sad I would feel when this day came, and I feel terrible for every time I groaned seeing OShea on the first xi list. It’s like when you fight within the family and sometimes say terrible things to each other, but its still family, right? You realize how much you miss them only when it’s too late. No Nev, no Scholes, no VDS, no OShea and no Wes Brown, Giggs’s time drawing ever closer to the end….the passing of an era. I only hope that the new era will be just as bright, just as red, and just as UNITED.

  25. Cadelin says:

    I am happy to see O’Shea go with so long left for the transfer window before it closes.
    No right minded United fan can say with hand on heart that when the opposition went down their left that they weren’t worried about what O’Shea would do next. His distribution is and has been woeful.

    Yes he filled in and was a “utility” player, yes he never whined about not playing regulalry and was a good “pro” but United deserve better.

    Someone who has more technical ability and can actually find a player in the same coloured shirt over a distance of more than five yards.

    I totally agree that he will always be remembered for the last minute winner against the Rat munchers but as the saying goes, the sun even shines on a dogs arse. He is not, was not and never will be of the quality that the shirt deserves and SAF knows what he is doing.

    I trust that the squad will be suitably upgraded. This has been the best transfer window for us showing our intent for years and its only just opened !!

    Now if we can do as Rene suggests and get the Dutch maestro this will have been just about the best transfer window EVER !!!

    Made up about the new season and can’t wait to stick it to the Wastelands wasters in the Community Shield.

    Roll on number 20.

  26. WHAT ??? says:

    @Costas – Easy mate.

    True there is always a risk of complacency, but think about it, Fabio is a long way from keeping Evra on the bench, regardless of what people seem to suddenly think about the Frenchman, and Rio and Vidic don’t look anywhere near retiring.

    So our back four still consists of Evra, RIo, Vidic…. and Rafa, who wants to kick his brother out of the RB position. That means Smalling, Evans, Jones and at least one twin are all fighting for places that are taken.I can’t see them getting complacent mate, the competition is too serious.

    Its a safety net keeping GNev, Scholes, O”Shea and Brown. I’ll never forget any of em, but sentiment aside it makes sense to up the pressure on existing players. If anything GIBSON is the shocker, I think he should have one more Season to secure a place but that doesn’t look like its happening

  27. rohan19 says:

    sad to see them go.. bring on the newbies…..

  28. ididnotzeeit says:

    Ireland’s Number 1! Ireland’s Number 1!

    Please don’t go Sheasy, I still and will always love you! Top lad. Doesn’t seem that long ago I was choking on my ale reading an FA Cup team sheet including a midfield pairing of JOS and Darren Gibson set to take on an Arsenal side that, by all pundits’ accounts was poised to win the quadruple, again. Well, along with the Da Silva boys on the flanks, we got stuck in, did a job and made them eat their crow.

    “He isn’t first choice in any of the positions but he’s reliable enough in all of them. I’d rather not see him in the midfield and we have better players than him at full-back, yet when we have an injury or need to rotate to rest our players, he’s a great stand in.”

    Couldn’t find a more relevant example of why we need to keep Sheasy around. I’m almost positive it’s not a case of JOS handing in a transfer request but rather, as some have suggested, a case of Sir Alex no longer wanting to look into the player’s eyes and disappoint him again.

    John O’Shea, staying or going will always have a place on my squad.

  29. Louis says:

    Personally, I think its more about wages than selling fees. 3million for Oshea is nothing, but consider that hes on a reported 80k a week. Thats too much for a player who will barely play next season. If he was on 50k per week we might have kept him as an injury crutch – thats IF he wants to stay as one.

  30. unmesh says:

    so sad to see o’shea go. i really never got how fans could call him o’shite. such a wonderfully loyal player – mark my words. we will miss his type. such loyalty and devotion to united will be harder to come by soon. in my opinion, loyalty to the club is almost as important as that extra 10%skill.

  31. kojo says:

    John O’shea has been great for us. The guy has played virtually in every position at Utd. My favourite memory of him was him making a top class save against Tottenham’s Robbie Keane. He made sure we had a clean sheet that day. My very best to him.

  32. YorYor says:

    Always liked him, even more than Fletcher a few years ago! Thought that he was a very useful player to have around, an automatic bench spot if not in the starting 11. Was always willing to forgive his not so good passing for everything else that he had to offer.
    Wish him all the best, hope he continues sticking the odd goal in every now and then against the teams that matter!

  33. thewhitepele10 says:

    o’shea….you’ll never beat o’shea, you’ll never beat o’shea! best of luck to johnny if the deal goes through

  34. RedDevil4Lyfe says:

    Hey Fred can you add like a Like button for comments LOL. Also I love this article and I agree with it 100%. We are losing Brown who is another club stalwart, but he doesnt play nearly as much as Sheasy.

    Plz keep Sheasy Fergie and plz stay Sheasy -

  35. Gee says:

    It will be sad to see JOS go as it is to see big Wes go but SAF is clearing the decks for the next generation to come through. Its always sad to see loyal players leave who are part of the fabric of the club but I think the time is right for them to move on. As for buying a new full back, I dont see it happening, youth players will be given the chance and I think SAF will use Evans more as a full back maybe this year too. Times are changing but as we all know we will never die!!

  36. Fred says:

    RedDevil4Lyfe – always a pleasure to meet a fan! :lol:

  37. NigeL K says:

    Its confirmed, Sheasy is gone…..totally gutted….

  38. smartalex says:

    Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, a former United player himself, said he was delighted to sign O’Shea.

  39. Sheasy Baby says:

    absolutely gutted to see sheasy go…hes been one of my favorite players for united ever (notice the name)…he played when and where needed and never complained once about it…he has united blood in his veins and his lose will be more immense than we think

    i hope he does well with sunderland and wish him all the best

    when johnny goes marching down the wing…..

  40. Long John O'Shea says:

    After 3 years of using this name it looks like ill need to change it :-(

  41. kel says:

    I find it hard to accept. Im one of you all who feel he is not good enough for United. But he always did a great job, With him around when our players are injured, he gives me confident unlike PIG who always makes me nervous.

    I fear that with so many experience players going out now, our squad might lose a bit of United ways of bond and such that it will affect the performance on field.

    Lets hope we can get through this. For me, if we were to change, we had to change to match Barcelona. This is another level of the club and not getting worst. Lets hope for the best to come.

  42. Fred says:

    @Long John – Perhaps “Gone John O’Shea”? LOL only kidding. You should just keep the name. :)


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