O'Shea: Fergie and Trapattoni share same hunger
With a staggering 64 major trophies between them, Sir Alex Ferguson and Giovanni Trapattoni own two of the most enviable medal collections in the game. Even in an era of lucrative salaries and vast mansions, most players would swap their flashiest Ferrari or priciest Rolex for the opportunity to work under the tutelage of either of these managerial legends.
Few can claim that privilege, but an even greater distinction belongs to Manchester United defender John O'Shea, who is currently working under both trophy-laden tacticians. Aside from loan spells at Bournemouth and Royal Antwerp, O'Shea has spent his entire club career playing under Ferguson at United, while for the past two years he has taken international orders from Trapattoni.
Ferguson has played a key role in O'Shea's football education and, despite rumours linking the versatile Irishman with a move away from the club appearing on a number of occasions during his 11-years at Old Trafford, the presence and continued support of the manager has given him no reason to seek a new challenge elsewhere.
The United boss has moulded three generations of title-winning sides - claiming 11 Premier League triumphs in all - while former Italy coach Trapattoni tasted Scudetto victory on nine occasions with Milan, Juventus and Inter, before going on to win league championships in Germany, Portugal and Switzerland. Having experienced the management styles of both veteran bosses, O'Shea believes the reason for their longevity in the game is that they share similar qualities - chiefly an insatiable appetite for success.
"There are definitely similarities - their desire and hunger to continue to want to be the best and to want their team to win is incredible," he tells ESPNsoccernet. "That's why they are still so successful and have cemented their reputations as two of the best managers ever to have been involved in the game. It's been a pleasure to work with both of them."
Excluding the caretaker reigns of Don Givens, O'Shea has experienced four different managers for Ireland - with Mick McCarthy, Brian Kerr and Steve Staunton coming and going before Trapattoni took the hotseat in 2008. The wily Italian may have taken them to the World Cup but for Thierry Henry's infamous handball, but O'Shea insists that he and his team-mates have never dwelt on their play-off disappointment, with Trapattoni responsible for keeping the players focused on the new campaign.
"We've moved on from it," he says. "The manager has spoken about it and we're just looking forward to going one step closer this time and qualifying for the Euros. Dwelling on it would just take the focus off what we're trying to do.
"In terms of experience and what he's won, I'd have to say Trapattoni's the best coach I've had for Ireland. He's improved the team and the squad with the approach he brings to every game and the understanding that he gives players now about fine little details that happen in the game and that have happened to him throughout his career. He's passing on all those little bits of advice to us."
The players may have just about got over the emotional trauma of the Henry-inspired defeat to Les Bleus last November, but the match took a physical toll on O'Shea, who picked up a thigh injury in Paris that curtailed his season. Having racked up an impressive haul of 54 games for United in the 2008-09 campaign, he made just 19 appearances last season - with 15 of those coming before his injury in November. It was the longest time O'Shea had ever spent on the sidelines and, while he admits it was tough watching the likes of Gary Neville and Rafael stake their claim for a first-team spot, he is philospohical about his time on the treatment table.
"If you're involved in football you's going to get injured," he says. "You just have to deal with it. That was my first major injury, but you do your hard work and you just concentrate on the recovery. It's unfortunate that you miss out on lots of big matches, but that's part and parcel of being at Manchester United and that's why the manager has such a good squad to cover injuries if these things happen. It feels good to be playing regularly again now and I've just been concentrating on having a good start and staying fit. Everything's gone well so far so hopefully it continues."
O'Shea has slipped seamlessly back into United's first XI after making some fleeting appearances towards the end of last season, and he is currently keeping Rafael out of the starting line-up. With Neville and Wes Brown on their way back from injury, the right-back slot is one of the most hotly contested positions in the team, but it is the Irishman who seems to curry most favour Ferguson at the moment.
Competition for places is fierce throughout the United squad, though opinion is divided about the three new summer arrivals at Old Trafford. While Javier Hernandez's pre-World Cup signing has been hailed as a masterstroke after he impressed in South Africa, doubts remain about just how much young pair Chris Smalling and Bebe will feature in the first-team. But having seen all three players close-up in training, O'Shea is confident they will have an important part to play in the coming season.
"The performances of the new lads in training have been very encouraging. Bebe's just come in so in the last few weeks I haven't trained with him as much but, the few days he has had, he's shown he's a quality finisher. Hernadez and Smalling I've obviously trained a lot more with and they're going to be great athletes for Manchester United.
"Chris is really going to improve learning from the defenders we have at the club and you can see already that his confidence is growing. We've got a real star in Hernandez - he played in the World Cup and took his goals there and the impression we've got in training already is he's going to be a big hit for the fans and for the team hopefully this season. I'm sure they're ready for the first team, and the manager's convinced that the three lads will definitely play a part this season.
"We're hungry to get to the latter stages of the Champions League again and obviously to win the title again. I think if we can keep everyone fit and the squad healthy, the manager has plenty of choices and we are definitely going to go close."
John O'Shea wears Concave PT+ boots. For more info, visit www.concavesports.com