22 - John O'Shea Profile

Having begun his career as a centre-half, John O'Shea has adapted in recent years to become a very useful utily player for Manchester United

He impressed manager Sir Alex Ferguson when travelling over from his native Waterford in Ireland for summer training stints at the club's academy and eventually signed apprentice forms at the club after leaving school. Just two years later, he signed his first professional contract. At the age of 18 he made his first team debut in October 1999 as a young United signed lost 3-0 to Aston Villa in the League Cup.

In an attempt to speed up his progress towards the first team, Ferguson sent O'Shea to Bournemouth on a two-month loan spell, followed by a fourth-month spell at Belgian club Royal Antwerp. These proved good experience for O'Shea and convinced Ferguson to give him his first team chance the following season.

He began the season alongside former France captain Laurent Blanc, helping him gain good experience from the World Cup winner. He played the majority of his games at centre-back or right-back but did occasionally fill in at left-back and central midfield. Undoubtedly one of the star performers of the campaign, his highlight came when he nutmegged Real Madrid star Luis Figo in the Champions League quarter-final.

The 2003/2004 season proved a difficult one for O'Shea. He had fallen into the trap of becoming regarded as a utility player and so never really held down a set position for his club. He often played in different positions each game when players were out with injury or suspension and struggled to get a decent run of form going.

The arrival of Gabriel Heinze and later Patrice Evra limited O'Shea's chances at left-back and chances at centre-back were limited, with Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Nemanja Vidic and Mikael Silvestre all ahead of him in the pecking order. As a result, O'Shea has found himself filling in more often in central midfield over the past two seasons, with United often short on cover in that area.

But the arrival of Michael Carrick at Old Trafford and Paul Scholes' return to fitness, O'Shea may now found himself used merely as back-up for United during the run-in for the title.

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