MANCHESTER, May 22 – John O'Shea insists he is not taking his Champions League final place for granted but admits his new-found status at Manchester United has vindicated his decision to stay at Old Trafford.The Ireland international has been a fringe player for the past decade at United and has fulfilled a wide number of roles.
But, at the age of 28, he has finally established himself as a regular in Sir Alex Ferguson’s team this season, making 53 appearances in a campaign that has already yielded three pieces of silverware: the World Club Cup, the League Cup and the Premier League trophy.
And after he scored the only goal in United’s 1-0 Champions League semi-final first leg victory over Arsenal, Ferguson claimed the defender would be in his team should United make the final.
O’Shea was an unused substitute in last year’s victory over Chelsea in Moscow and is refusing to get excited about Wednesday’s game against Barcelona until he is on the pitch.
He said: "The manager might have said something about me starting a few weeks ago but you never take it for certain until you know for definite when he names the team in the team meeting.
"It is nice to know that but we wait and see. It is going to be special game and hopefully we win.
"I have played in nearly all the games in the Champions League this year. I have played a part in getting us to the final but so has everyone else.
"I am sure the lads who are on the bench will be thinking there could be a hero on there waiting to come on and score for us."
Ferguson was unusually fulsome in his praise for O’Shea.
"He doesn’t get the celebrity status that a lot of Manchester united players get," the Scot observed.
"But he would play anywhere for me – he’s played in goal for a short period, he’s played all along the back four and in midfield and because of injuries to Gary Neville and Wes Brown he has become a permanent fixture.
"He takes his place in Rome because he deserves it, he has a heck of a work rate and he’s shown that by playing consistently, his performances have improved with it.
"He’s a fantastic type of person, he’s well mannered and well brought up and has good intelligence and he has got work rate, he likes to work in training so we are pleased with him."
O’Shea is adamant he has never thought about leaving United despite regularly missing out on their biggest matches.
The defender claims that United’s success and Ferguson’s personal touch has been key to keeping a big squad happy.
He added: "It is the man-management side that does it. He makes you feel involved. He might come around and say ‘you are not playing tomorrow but you are playing on Wednesday week and I want you ready for that game’.
"It is just the little things and his experience that makes him the best in the business.
"I would never just stay at a club for the sake of winning a medal. I would never do that. It would always be the case if I felt I wasn’t playing a part I would leave."
O’Shea regularly watches Spanish football on television and says that Barcelona’s high-scoring and free-flowing play has been a regular topic of conversation at United’s Carrington training ground.
He continued: "When you see them play at the Nou Camp and teams attack them, it seems to leave their opponents vulnerable to the counter-attack.
"You just have to look at the amount of goals they have scored this year. I think they have three or four players up around the 30 mark.
"We won’t be attacking them too much because we know they have a huge attacking threat. But we are not too bad ourselves.
"Obviously the bigger games, like the ‘Classico’ with Madrid and the derby match with Espanyol are usually good games. You always try to catch the highlights because in training we always talk about the goals being scored.
"Most of the lads do watch them – and it is a treat. But they have lost a few games now and then.
"Our front three is just as good as theirs. We have to focus on ourselves. We are going to show Barcelona huge respect but we are trying to win. With our attacking threat they know they will have a tough job on their hands as well. We have to use it to our advantage."