JOHN O’SHEA is likely to be Sunderland’s next signing of the summer, with the Black Cats making surprisingly quick progress in talks with the Manchester United defender.
But the move could yet be complicated by rumoured late interest from Arsenal, who are poised to lose left-back Gael Clichy to Manchester City in a £7m deal this weekend and are casting around for defensive reinforcements.
Sunderland had a combined £12m bid accepted last month for a trio of Manchester United players deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford – O’Shea (pictured), Wes Brown and Darron Gibson.
And the immediate thinking was that Gibson would jump at the chance of moving to the Stadium of Light, Brown would consider it while O’Shea would prefer to remain at Manchester United and fight to win his way back into the manager’s plans.
But the reality is that 30-year-old O’Shea has been the swiftest to take up Sunderland’s interest, despite claims elsewhere that he didn’t fancy or had rejected the move.
And if talks remain on course, the Republic of Ireland international will become Steve Bruce’s sixth signing of the summer just as the Black Cats’ squad returns for pre-season training midweek.
The only thing that could seriously derail a move is if Arsenal’s interest in signing O’Shea is genuine.
The Gunners would be able to offer the defender the chance to extend his stay at the very highest level of the game, with Champions League football on offer and his best chance of adding to a medal haul of five league titles, an FA Cup, three League Cups and a Champions League trophy.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has form for this sort of move, Mikael Silvestre making the move to the Emirates in 2009.
But any proposed move is unlikely to appeal to O’Shea for a number of reasons, not least the fact that a move to the Gunners might jeopardise the affection in which Manchester United fans hold him after a decade at the club.
There’s also the fact that his first-team chances might be more limited and the fact that Arsenal have a policy of offering only short-term, usually one-year contracts, to anyone over 30.
Placed against that is the fact that O’Shea would virtually be guaranteed a start in every Sunderland game next season, plus he has a great admiration both for former Manchester United captain Bruce and former Republic of Ireland star Niall Quinn.
As things stand this weekend, Sunderland are very much in pole position.
And if talks do conclude successfully with Sunderland, Bruce will be even more delighted that he has been at the end of a week which saw five new arrivals.
At a stroke, the 6ft 3ins defender would solve some of the issues Sunderland have in terms of height and physical presence in the side.
He would instantly be the most versatile player at the Stadium of Light – the value of which cannot be underestimated when injuries start to kick in.
And after a decade at Old Trafford he could bring invaluable experience and composure to a squad which last season had the youngest average age in the Premier League.
Of the three Manchester United players linked with Sunderland, it is O’Shea who can offer the most to the Black Cats.