Man for all seasons

John O’Shea has actually played in most positions during his United career — including in goal, after Edwin van der Sar was injured in a game against Tottenham last year.

O’Shea hails from Waterford and was taken on by United after being invited for summer training camps as a youngster. He signed as an apprentice after leaving school and made his first-team debut in 1999 in a League Cup tie against Aston Villa, which United lost 3-0.

Despite being highly rated, further first-team opportunities were few and far between, O’Shea was sent on loan to Bournemouth and Royal Antwerp for experience.

He returned to United and marked himself out as a star for the future by featuring throughout the 2002-03 Barclays English Premier League-winning campaign. He learnt much from playing alongside Laurent Blanc at centre-half but also shone at left-back and filled in at right-back and central midfield.

There was even a notable moment when he nutmegged Real Madrid galactico Luis Figo in a UEFA Champions League quarter-final, but his form levelled off during the following season.

The 2003-04 campaign proved a difficult one as, due to injuries, he played in several different positions without being able to make one his own. It was the start of things to come.

Competition for defensive positions from the likes of Gabriel Heinze, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra saw him become predominantly a midfield player, but United have since strengthened in that area too.

The likes of Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves now rival him for a holding role in the centre of the field but O’Shea seems content as a member of a large and high-quality squad.

O’Shea has actually played in most positions during his United career — including in goal, after Edwin van der Sar was injured in a game against Tottenham last year.

On the international front, O’Shea has likewise become an important member of the Republic of Ireland’s squad. He is yet to feature in a major tournament having been overlooked for the 2002 World Cup and Ireland not qualifying for anything since.

O’Shea was once involved with Irish model Emma Jane Power. The pair split up some years ago and Power was next seen dating TV presenter Patrick Kielty.

O’Shea was said to have been one of several United players targeted by their fiery former captain Roy Keane in a controversial interview during the 2005-06 season. With Keane out injured, United toiled on the field and the skipper hit out, remarkably whilst talking to the club’s own TV station. “There is a shortage of characters in this team,” he said. “It seems to be in this club that you have to play badly to be rewarded. Maybe that is what I should do when I come back. Play badly.”

The interview was never broadcast at the insistence of manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

O’Shea drives a luxurious BMW 6 Series V8, which boasts 0-60mph in less than six seconds and is controlled by a six-speed automatic gearbox. It costs up to GBP88,000 and has a top speed of 158mph.

Factfile Name: John O’Shea Position: Defender or midfielder Club: Manchester United D.O.B.: 30/04/1981 Ireland Caps: 27 Ireland Goals: 1 Ireland Debut: v Croatia, August 2001 Moment to remember

O’Shea earned his place in United folklore with a dramatic last-gasp winner against arch-rivals Liverpool last season. With time running out at Anfield and the game still goalless, United — after having Paul Scholes sent off — won a free-kick. Goalkeeper Jose Reina could only parry from Cristiano Ronaldo’s effort and substitute O’Shea pounced. It was a vital win in United’s push for the Barclays English Premier League title.

Moment to forget

O’Shea’s international career got off to an inauspicious start in a friendly against Croatia at Lansdowne Road. The Irish appeared to be cruising at 2-0 with 10 minutes remaining but the visitors then pulled one back. O’Shea was brought on to try to protect the lead but conceded a penalty in the last minute to allow Croatia to snatch a 2-2 draw.

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