John O’Shea is “jealous” of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but admitted his former team-mate is the “perfect man” to rejuvenate Manchester United.
O’Shea will return to Old Trafford on Saturday with Reading for an FA Cup third-round tie that sees the Royals take on a United side flying following the sacking of Jose Mourinho and appointment of Solskjaer on an interim basis.
Solskjaer has guided United to four successive wins – matching Matt Busby’s club record for a new man at the helm – and transformed the mood after reports of dressing room discontent under Mourinho.
Central defender O’Shea, 37, could follow the Norwegian into management when he hangs up his boots but concedes he is unlikely to get a club with United’s status.
He told a media conference: “I’m jealous of him, you look at the players and team and the club that it is. What an opportunity and he’s taken it with both hands.
“Ole is the perfect man at the minute, [with] the principles of success and he must be a front-runner to take over the role full-time.
“He has come in under the radar, but in the [Alex] Ferguson mould, bringing his own freshness.
“He’s kept it simple. Ole would have more pressure if he was announced as the next manager. He’s got that bit of freedom in being a caretaker.”
— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) January 3, 2019
United have struggled since Ferguson’s departure in 2013 with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and, most recently, Mourinho failing to replicate the Scot’s trophy-laden era.
“I always felt it would be difficult to replace Sir Alex and his success,” said O’Shea.
“I felt they would have been able to cope a bit better but respect to the other teams and their improvements.
“It’s a balancing act, a new manager brings in his signings, a couple in and a couple out, it’s a difficult one to get right. [But] because of the success and financial power, I thought they would have been a bit closer.”
O’Shea spent 12 years at Old Trafford, making over 250 appearances before leaving for Sunderland in 2011. He quit Wearside for Reading in June 2018.
Asked to identify the highlight of his United career, the former Republic of Ireland defender said: “Winning the Premier League in 02-03 stands out, [it] was huge playing in so many games and coming back to win the league.
“It was also great to be part of winning the FA Cup and League Cup and being part of the night in Moscow [for the 2008 Champions League success over Chelsea].
“And then the next season, playing that final in Rome, scoring in the semi against Arsenal. I popped up with a few crucial goals, something you cherish from your career.”
The driving force in United’s resurgence under Solskjaer has been Paul Pogba, the France midfielder chipping in with three assists and four goals in the last four games.
O’Shea hopes Pogba can now kick on and make the most of his second spell at Old Trafford.
“I remember Paul from the youth team and reserves,” said O’Shea.
“He is such a bubbly character, a fantastic talent and a really good kid. He was always wanting to push for that first-team spot but he grew impatient. So he went to Juventus and did amazing before coming back.
“When he won the World Cup in the summer, he did all the talking on the pitch, but he’s got to keep doing that.
“He will become the player that can score goals and create chances and if he keeps doing that, I’m sure that the United fans will get behind him.”
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