John O’Shea: Solskjaer more than Mr Nice Guy

John O’Shea believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s own experience as a Manchester United ‘super-sub’ is one of the main reasons he has been able to get so much out of the current squad at Old Trafford.

John O’Shea: Solskjaer more than Mr Nice Guy

John O’Shea believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s own experience as a Manchester United ‘super-sub’ is one of the main reasons he has been able to get so much out of the current squad at Old Trafford.

O’Shea says he always saw his former team-mate as a future manager, having observed the forensic attention to detail of the player’s preparations even when he knew he was going to start on the bench.

“Yeah, that was a key thing to him,” says the former Ireland international. “And that’s where I think he has been able to focus on the squad, to have that competition, to show to the boys: ‘Look, you might not be starting at the minute, but if you are not coming on and doing the business, then you won’t be in the starting 11’.

“I think that’s how the competition for places should be and you’ve seen it in the results that he’s got. It’s not just that they’ve gone, ‘ah, sure he’s a great fella, let’s go run around a bit faster and tackle harder for Ole just because he’s a nice lad.’ There’s a lot more behind Ole’.

“The big thing for me is when you see the impact he has been able to make on the squad as a whole, especially when they have got injuries and suspensions.

“Lukaku has come in and done incredible, he’s a top player, he scores goals for fun. Rashford was his No. 1 for a bit but Lukaku was champing at the bit and saying ‘hang on, I am No. 1 here’.

“Ole has been able to have the character to get the best out of the players even when he has been leaving them out of the team, and that’s a key aspect of maintaining a really competitive squad.”

Not, O’Shea hastens to add, that in his own playing days the Norwegian was ever content with just warming the bench at United.

“He would have been browned off at times. He would have been angry. But he dealt with it in a very professional way. Look, he still played a lot of football but obviously the competition that he had at the time, you were looking at Sheringham, Cole, Yorke, van Nistelrooy. You are talking the elite strikers in Europe and he was in the mix.

“To have that competition was obviously huge. He would have pushed those players too and that’s the thing I’m probably seeing from United for the last few months: The players seem to be pushing each other into proper performances and then maintaining that. And I think Ole has been able to drive that message.”

The only real blot on the caretaker manager’s copybook so far has been the 2-0 Champions League loss to PSG but O’Shea isn’t yet ready to write off his old team as they travel to Paris for tomorrow night’s second leg.

“It’s a hell of a task for them to go to PSG and turn that result around,” he concedes, “but Ole has been getting some great results and an early goal could really (make it interesting).”

Meanwhile, O’Shea is relishing his own ambassadorial role for the country’s hosting of the U17 European Championship finals in May, a tournament which inevitably brings back happy memories of Ireland winning the U16 edition in 1998, an early milestone in the Waterford man’s illustrious club and international career.

“It would have been a good confidence-builder for the team and individually,” he reflects.

“Personally, I definitely took a lot from it. You think of the countries we were playing against, and their rich pedigree, and we were competing and winning it. It was a huge boost to everyone.

“More than likely I was just about to sign for Celtic on the back of it and then United were able to watch me in those games and that was a contributing factor in turning my career in that direction. So I have a lot to thank it for.”

Looking forward to the tournament in May, the Reading defender says: “Hopefully this is a chance for the public to support their own nation in a big tournament, plus it’s a chance to see stars of the future on their doorstep as well. I’ve every confidence it will be a fantastic tournament.”

Colin O’Brien’s Ireland will learn who their opponents will be when the finals draw takes place in Dublin on April 5.

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