'I have a 100% clean-sheet record as a keeper'
In our new UTD Podcast, John O'Shea reflects on two of the most memorable moments from his illustrious career: playing in goal and nut-megging the great Luis Figo at Old Trafford.
A particular focus is paid to the day he became our goalkeeper in a 2007 Premier League match at White Hart Lane, after Edwin van der Sar was forced off with a broken nose when Sir Alex Ferguson had already made three substitutions.
It looked at first like Rio Ferdinand would step up, before O'Shea dramatically pulled on the goalkeeping jersey and keep a celebrated clean sheet in north London.
“Look, it was baffling really because Rio was fairly certain he was going to get the nod to go in goal and I think it might have been Gaz Nev in the end who said Sheasy would be the better option,” recalls John. “And, obviously, from doing Gaelic football growing up, it wasn't going to be an issue.
“I might have actually said that but I think the lads would have been confused, but actually the weird bit then, looking back, and you are always sent different things, I came out for a cross and it was the worst attempt at catching it [laughs]. I got contact on it! I was thinking in my head, 'I will catch this', and then at the last minute I thought I would punch and I absolutely flapped at it. Thankfully I kept a clean sheet and I had a one-on-one save with Robbie Keane. We were going on international duty after that as well and Robbie wasn't happy, like, because he was obviously hungry for goals.
“Look, people obviously forget the score-line at the time, I think we were 4-0 up so there wasn't too much pressure, but it was mad afterwards because the United fans were singing 'United's number one' and it got headlines back in Ireland as well. I was able to raffle off the jersey for charity at home, the Coast Guard down in Waterford, so it raised some good funds for that as well.
“It was hilarious as well. The most nerve-wracking thing was the goal-kick and just turning backwards, where all the Tottenham fans are saying 'nice' things about you as you go to kick the ball. It was strange. A good experience, but I don't think I could have been a keeper. It gives me a unique perspective as a coach and at least I can say I have a 100 per cent clean sheet record in the Premier League, and not a lot of people can say that.”
Of course, despite his goalkeeping heroics, O'Shea was a top player by trade and his ability on the ball made him an invaluable asset for Sir Alex.
John would always back himself and that much was never more evident than the occasion he executed a perfect nutmeg on Real Madrid legend Luis Figo, during a Champions League match at Old Trafford.
O’Shea sheds light on his moment of magic during his UTD Podcast and explains how the outrageous skill sparked a stunned reaction from the Reds faithful.
“Yeah, look, its crazy the amount of people that talk about it and mention it, but it was just one of those things. Did I shout it? It was just pure shock!
“The game itself, what a fantastic player Figo was. It was weird because when you are left-back, the scenario for me, it was just easier for me coming back in to the right foot, I am naturally right footed, but thankfully when I did it I was actually just able to keep the ball as well and keep possession.
“Look, I would have gladly had Figo nutmegged me a number of times and we had won the game, if you know what I mean. The night they went and knocked us out was annoying. I always remember the manager afterwards, because I think there was myself, Rio, Wes and it might have been Mikael starting in the back four. He said about our ages and the level we need to get to, to be dominant in Europe and to understand the latter stages, because they had kind of done us a little bit. So it took us a while to get there, but we kind of got there in the end.”
John literally fulfilled every role as a Red and that unique achievement is an immediate talking point in our new episode of the UTD Podcast, which was released in full via the United App on Monday.
“I came on up front in one of the games against Reading at Old Trafford and I probably should have scored as well,” laughs John. “It was big Marcus Hannaman in goal and I wouldn't say it was a good save, but Marcus Hannaman came out, he was a big unit and he stopped it.
“I will always remember, it was Louis Saha who said to me one day, shaking his head, ‘Sheasy, how can you do this, how can you play in so many positions?’ It was that type of thing and I remember saying ‘I'm not really sure, Louis, to be honest’. But I think it was just a case of being comfortable on the ball, being able to take instructions, understand, hopefully I used to think the manager thought 'he is quite bright, clever, and can adapt to things’.
“When you have people like Louis, a top striker and French international, he was shaking his head, saying it was amazing and asking how I was able to do it. People would say, ‘you are playing in so many positions, does it stop you, does it stop your growth?’. But for me it was the exact opposite. It was amazing for me. The manager would just go, 'Sheasy can do do it, Sheasy could do that'.”