Depleted Manchester United could do with John O'Shea's assurance

Centre-half would have helped to settle Van Gaal’s new-look defence

At a time when Manchester United are so short of centre-halves – Louis van Gaal had to start the season with debutant Tyler Blackett last week – fans could be forgiven for looking at the opposition captain this afternoon and wondering if, perhaps, they let him leave too early.

Leading out Sunderland today at the Stadium of Light will be John O’Shea, who spent a dozen years at United, earning nearly 400 appearances and a shelf of medals without ever nailing down a regular first-team spot; Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were just too good. So, in 2011, O’Shea moved on to Wearside in search of regular first-team football.

Now, though, the 33-year-old is just the sort of experienced defender the club needs in the wake of that pair’s departure. Not that the duo are the only familiar faces who will not be in the visiting line-up. “It will be odd playing United without Vidic, Rio, [Patrice] Evra, but particularly [Ryan] Giggs because he was there so many years,” said O’Shea.

“It was weird going down to Old Trafford last season and seeing him as the manager. It was incredible, you know, but I’m sure it’s given him a taste of what’s to come.”

John O'Shea was a reliable figure for Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford John O'Shea was a reliable figure for Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford Sunderland won that match last spring, one of the extraordinary results that facilitated their remarkable escape from Premier League relegation. It also indicated United’s problems went a lot deeper than David Moyes’ management.

“It wasn’t nice for Giggsy, but that was a special day,” said O’Shea. “We won in the League Cup game against them [on penalties, in the Capital One Cup semi-final second-leg], that was an incredible night, but for Premier League survival when we won there it was so crucial.”

O’Shea has become used to managerial change at Sunderland – Gus Poyet is his fourth in as many years – but the experience is new to his old club.

“It’s going to be an interesting season, everyone is waiting to see how they’re doing,” he said. “They’ve lost a lot of experience but have got a very experienced manager who has been successful wherever he’s been.

“He looks a great character whenever he’s being interviewed. He came across very well with the Dutch team during the  World Cup.

“Expectation levels are always sky high [at Manchester United] and that won’t change. Obviously, after last season, people are saying, ‘Oh, they need to get to the top four, they need to get this’.

“Expectation is always very high there, they always expect to be challenging for every trophy they get involved in and that won’t change.

“Not being involved in Europe will help in the sense that they will be fresh and they will be able to prepare very well for Premier League matches. They will try to use that as a positive.”

The defender scored a number of vital goals during his time with Manchester United The defender scored a number of vital goals during his time with Manchester United Sunderland have expectations of their own after the late-season revival under Poyet but a quiet summer in the transfer market has raised fears that another season of relegation struggle could be looming. 

O’Shea admitted the lack of signings compared to last summer’s upheaval could be a bonus but cautioned: “You always need a competitive squad. You always need the quality. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, that’s the important part. If you see any team that has success, done well throughout the season, it’s the competitive squad where you can put the quality in to replace the quality that’s been injured or suspended.

“If we can get a couple more in before the end of the transfer window that’ll be brilliant. The manager and the board and everyone are trying to do that. You do just need that little bit more quality.”

Sunderland’s big signing has been Jack Rodwell, who is looking to rebuild his career after a frustrating time at Manchester City. “His attitude is fantastic and he’s hopefully going to be a big, big star for us,” said O’Shea. “He has a real confidence to get on the ball and show what he can do driving forward with his runs into the box.

“You saw the teams that were interested in him when he was at Everton. It didn’t go to plan for him at City but he has big ambitions, he wants to get back in and be involved with England as well and we can do that for him.”

There was one significant addition to O’Shea’s family this summer, a daughter, Ruby, to join Alfie. That could have affected pre-season but, said O’Shea, “that is the advantage of being able to shift the family back to Ireland for a couple of weeks”.

Ruby is back now, but O’Shea hopes the only people suffering sleepless nights this week will be the men running his old team.

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
News
news
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn