Sunderland target O’Shea is more than a Man Utd reserve
Man Utd defenders’ Premier League appearances in 2010-11…
Having been left suitably unimpressed by the likes of Paul McShane and Liam Miller, and with the jury still out on others like Fraizer Campbell, scepticism from Sunderland fans about the prospect of signing more Manchester United players is understandable.
Wes Brown, Darron Gibson and John O’Shea are among the names linked and while the first two’s description as fringe players at Old Trafford is justified, the latter’s impact on the Red Devils’ recent success is harshly overlooked.
The Irish defender has after all lasted over a decade at a club that over the period in question have claimed more titles than anyone else in England and, unlike Brown, a lengthy spell on the sidelines can’t be pointed to as a factor in that longevity.
As the graph above illustrates, O’Shea made more Premier League appearances last season for Manchester United than every defender besides Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, and this hasn’t been a one-off occurrence either.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s side’s last four title-winning campaigns, the 30-year-old has featured a combined 110 times. That is an average of 27.5 games per season, compared to 15 in 2009-10, the one time in the last five years that they have finished second.
The decision to sacrifice O’Shea this summer appears a consequence of the decision to rejuvenate the squad, cutting the average age of the starting line-up by around three years, rather than a direct indictment of his performances.
Throw his versatility into the equation, capable of operating anywhere along the back line and in midfield too, and Sunderland supporters should feel optimistic that they are getting a great deal.