Things could have been very different for John O’Shea if he had joined Celtic instead of Manchester United all those years ago.
The current dominant force in Scottish football, Celtic, have had a fairly illustrious past couple of decades. Players have come and gone, as have managers, and all have tasted success. So we would not go as far as to say that failing to sign John O’Shea was a huge error.
But it is always interesting to consider what could have been.
John O’Shea -1998
Without any doubt, O’Shea is one of the most successful Irish footballers of all time – a list conveniently topped by fellow Manchester United men Dennis Irwin and Roy Keane – having amassed a total of five Premier League titles, one Champions League, one FA Cup and two English League Cups during his time in Manchester.
His long-term boss Sir Alex Ferguson was a man who knew exactly how to get the most out of his players, and O’Shea was no exception to that rule.
Indeed, the Irishman played in near enough every possible position available to him, including goalkeeper, and excelled every time.
Be it right-back, centre-back, left-back or centre-midfield he did a job.
No Manchester United fan was under any illusion that John O’Shea was a gifted player; he was big, clunky and relatively played a relatively simple game (other than his nutmeg on Figo).
But that is what made him so great: he did the basic tasks very well.
After all, you do not earn 52 appearances (2003/04) in a season for nothing. There needs to be some degree of respect and trust vested in a player to carry through a demanding schedule of such mammoth proportions.
And things could have been so different.
By his own admission, O’Shea said: “Ireland won the European Under 17s title in 1998 and personally, I definitely took a lot from it. The countries we were playing against, with their rich pedigree and the fact that we could compete and win it.
“I was just about to sign for Celtic until United were able to watch me in those games.
“It was a contributing factor in turning my career in that direction, so I have a lot to thank it for.” (via Daily Record).
Again, as great as John O’Shea would have been at Celtic, we must stress that his signing likely would not have changed their success. In fact, there is every chance he could have failed at Celtic, without the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.