It may be a footballing truism that choosing to leave Manchester United is never easy, but John O'Shea insisted yesterday that the decision had been straightforward enough.
"The manager explained he might not be able to give me as many games as in previous seasons, and if you don't feel you're contributing on the pitch then it's time to move on," said the Irishman, who moved to Sunderland in the close season for £5m.
"Previously I always felt I was contributing, but bigger and better players than me have left Old Trafford. I moved because I wanted to make sure I was playing week in, week out." Which makes it all the more ironic that a hamstring injury has prevented the 30-year-old making more than one appearance for the Black Cats this season.
To make matters worse, just when Sunderland thought they had got him fit again, O'Shea – bought by Steve Bruce to add "experience, nous and know-how" to a defence that at times seemed to give away goals for fun last season – picked up a minor hip injury in the Republic of Ireland's match against Slovakia last weekend, and will miss tomorrow's home tie with Chelsea.
O'Shea's frustration is considerable, not least because he believes he has seen enough in his short time in the north-east to be convinced that, despite having so far failed to record a win, Bruce's Sunderland are going in the right direction.
"When you look at the games we've played, we created many chances against Newcastle, we should have won at Anfield and we definitely left two points behind at Swansea. A little bit more care in front of goal and that can be sorted out."
This week's arrival of Nicklas Bendtner on a season-long loan from Arsenal can only help in that respect, O'Shea believes, and nor has he found the determination to succeed at the Stadium of Light to be any less than that at Old Trafford – although the definition of what constitutes success may be.
"The intensity here may be different off the pitch, but on it, and in training and in the dressing room, it is the same. OK, Manchester United expect to win every competition they enter, whereas we are looking to improve on having finished 10th in the league, but the average age of the team is still quite young. Every season you want to do better and better, to improve your club and yourself as a player, and that still applies."Reuse content