Since the end of the season where Manchester United claimed an unprecedented 19th league title, they have been linked with every big name that may be available in what many believe to be a transfer window that would be and are currently in the midst of one of the biggest squad overhauls the club has seen for many years.
Of course with arrivals come the inevitable departures of members who may now be deemed surplus to requirements or who simply feel a change is needed for more first team opportunities.
Two names that have been linked with a change of scenery from the start have been John O’Shea and Wes Brown, both having spent their careers so far at United and both linked with a move to Steve Bruce’s Sunderland side more than most. And this speculation was confirmed when it was announced they were undertaking medicals and were then to be signed on four year contracts, indicating the last long deals of their careers.
Both Brown and O’Shea may not have been the most popular names at Old Trafford, what with many star names dominating the limelight delivering world class performances, but their time at the club is not to be dismissed or ignored. Having both been signed at the age of 17 by United, there careers at the club have lasted far longer than many would hope to imagine and with it has brought much success in what has produced many medals than the majority of Premier League, or indeed any professional footballer, would ever hope to see.
It would be false to state that either of them have always been first team regular, particularly with Wes Brown having had Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ahead of him and having been hampered by injuries in recent years, but despite this both have made worthy contributions. For example, John O’Shea has been used in a variety of positions in recent seasons. At times he has had to fill in different areas of the defence and has the honour of having played in every position at some point, due to having filled in for Edwin Van Der Sar in goal against Tottenham as United had used up all of the substitutions available. This performance produced its moments including denying Robbie Keane a strong opportunity at goal in a game that one would describe as an heroic contribution. He has also been used as an emergency striker and also produced memories to remember, notably his last minute winner, poaching a goal from a parried free-kick at Anfield against bitter rivals Liverpool. Although many would not describe him as world class or ever staking a claim as one of the big names at the club, John O’Shea can best be labelled as dependable. He is a player who will do whatever is asked of him, and though it never truly amazes people, the majority of the time he will do the job well so that whatever position he is filling in, is not really a weak point in the team. Whilst this was not always the case, for the most part he deserves respect for his efforts rarely being a regular starter in one position, but always doing what was required of him.
With Wes Brown, his career at United has often been hampered by injury from early on, including a spell in 1999 that saw him fail to make an appearance in a competitive game for the entire campaign. However, his talent was always highly thought of by Sir Alex Ferguson, repaying his faith in him in the following seasons that saw strong performances enhancing his reputation. Although injuries continued to be an issue, Brown was rewarded with a new 5-year contract that would have seen him through to 2013. Of course, with the signing of Nemanja Vidic proving so effective, Brown began to find first team opportunities hard to come by, particularly given his injury-prone nature. Despite this he too was a good squad member, able to produce solid performances. Even though recent times have produced speculation of falling out with Ferguson as well as continued links with a move away, Brown has also had moments to remember. A notable example was his use at right back during the 2008 campaign, a season that saw United triumph in the Champion’s League, with Brown having an assist to his name having set up Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal scoring opportunity.
To conclude, this is why both players leave with my respect and with fond memories. Both have served the club loyally for many years, and whilst not always finding themselves starting too often, they can be counted on to produce a performance when asked of them. Both have persevered and fought for places in the team the whole time without complaint and have been rewarded with established careers that have produced more success and silverware than many will ever have a chance to see. And now, with their last big contracts on offer, it has been felt it is time to seek pastures new, and I, hopefully along with many other United fans, wish them success in their new endeavours.