PLAYERS like John O’Shea are lasting tributes to the good habits instilled in footballers by Sir Alex Ferguson, says Paolo Di Canio.
The Republic of Ireland international has been Sunderland’s stand-in skipper in the absence of the injured Lee Cattermole – rising to the challenge both of captaining the side and also producing defensively solid performances.
And In Di Canio’s view, much of that is down to the schooling he received in a dozen years at Old Trafford under Ferguson.
The 71-year-old Scot shook the world of football this week when he announced he would be retiring at the end of the season.
But Di Canio says the legendary manager’s value can be weighed in the type of players he helped produce, as well as the trophies he helped United collect.
The Italian said: “I look at John and he is a good example to any young footballer – he sets himself standards on and off the pitch.
“He is someone who responds very well to being given responsibility and that is a very Manchester United trait – accepting personal responsibility, always wanting to do everything you possibly can in any situation on a football pitch.
“To me, that is because he has had good habits for a long, long time.”
Di Canio feels the 32-year-old centre-half also deserves praise for maintaining those standards into the veteran stage of his career.
“You have to have high standards to play for Manchester United for any length of time under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“But I think what impresses me about John is that he has kept those standards.
“I think it could be tempting for a footballer who has left Manchester United to say OK, I don’t have to work quite as hard or be quite as good.
“But John is not like that, he is always trying his hardest, even now trying to improve and I think we have to respect that.”
O’Shea’s leadership and defensive talents will never be more needed by Sunderland than tomorrow, when the Black Cats take on Southampton in a game which could secure the Wearsiders’ Premier League status.
Di Canio said: “John is a leader on the pitch but we need everybody to be leaders in the Southampton game.
“It is such an important game but it is also one that we should look forward to because it offers the great opportunity for us to get ourselves safe for another season in front of our own supporters.”