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Premier League cult heroes - Manchester United's John O'Shea

Saturday 29th July 2017
No team has been more successful during the Premier League era than Manchester United, and their success has been accompanied by a whole host of top class players that the club will hold dear forever more. Players such as Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes played their way into United folklore however one Irishman became a favourite without having the same talented as the rest.

Dubbed a utility man throughout his career, academy graduate John O'Shea quite literally played everywhere for Manchester United. So much so that he never quite had a set position during his 12 year stay at the Theatre of Dreams.

In his first full season in 2002/03 he was deployed at both full back positions, centre half and in midfield by Sir Alex Ferguson. His versatility bought himself a place within Manchester United squad despite not quite being the most gifted footballer around, especially within a squad as talented as the Red Devils'. His game time with the club relied solely on others being absent, during Rio Ferdinand's famous drugs ban he would step in at the heart of defence for example. The more he played the more his versatility was clear, however he didn't have the smoothest first few years with the Red Devils.

During the 2004/05 season he received heavy criticism and was deemed not good enough for the ambitions of a club like Manchester United. He was supposedly one of the players targeted by Roy Keane's famous MUTV outburst in which he heavily criticised a portion of the squad for not being up for the challenge.

All the while, O'Shea would seemingly pull off moments of unlikely brilliance and significance that would capture the fans' hearts. In a thrilling 4-2 win over Arsenal at Highbury O'shea flawlessly chipped Jens Lehman from the edge of the 18 yard box on the angle, naturally sending the travelling support into bedlam!

He also nutmegged the great Figo when playing against Real Madrid which is something United fans still adore a great deal. Just a few years later the Irishman scored a last minute winner away at Anfield against bitter rivals Liverpool in what is probably his finest hour. The win was pivotal in the run in to reclaim the Premier League after three seasons without lifting the trophy, and O'Shea was the unlikely hero. During the same campaign (2006/07) his versatility reached new limits when he deputised in net for injured 'keeper Edwin Van Der Sar. Much to the irony of the situation he saved a one on one against his fellow countryman, Robbie Keane, which he's no doubt never let him hear the end of.

O'Shea's cult hero status isn't for being one of the best or even one of the most underrated like so many others. He was never seen as pivotal to any real success or hailed as someone who doesn't receive the credit they deserve but instead he achieved the love of the fans through his "unlikely hero" persona.

Whenever he scored, which wasn't often, even he wheeled away with a look of bewilderment on his face. He himself was the last man in the stadium that expected to see his name appear on the score sheet. So, when he did, at the times he did, and in the games he did, it brought out a frenzy from the United support. He was far from one of the best players in the side during any campaign but there weren't many fans who didn't love him. He had his own chant, which is still sung to this day! When that happens you know you've done something special.

He departed United in 2011 with 5 Premier League winners medals and a Champions League success to his name as well. Not a bad career at all. But what will ring true more than anything is the bond he generated with the fans, and that's something he still has to this day.
Ryan Stewart

23 years old, Sport Journalism graduate living in Salford. Work in web content in Media city and always looking to break in to sports writing. Manchester United season ticket holder.


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