John O'Shea has spoken very highly of Manchester United's young Irish defender Lee O'Connor 2 months ago

John O'Shea has spoken very highly of Manchester United's young Irish defender Lee O'Connor

"There's plenty of time for him yet, he has a fantastic future ahead of him."

John O'Shea has been speaking about Lee O'Connor, the young Irish defender impressing at Manchester United who has been compared to the former Republic of Ireland defender.

Like O'Shea, O'Connor is a defender and a Waterford-native who joined United as a teenager from his schoolboy club. The 18-year-old, like O'Shea, is also versatile and comfortable playing in different positions across the defence.

At an event for the UEFA Under-17 European Championship, which will be held in Ireland in May, O'Shea praised O'Connor and tipped him to have a bright future in the game.

"Yeah, I have seen a bit of him," O'Shea told reporters in Dublin on Monday.

"Recently I did a thing for MUTV, they were playing Reading Under-23s and I was able to watch Lee up close. And obviously, other people had been talking to me about him.

"I’ve been trying to keep an eye on his career, and he was quality, top quality on the pitch. He was very comfortable, he went right-back to left-back in a breeze, it was no problem to him."

O'Connor has trained with the Irish senior team and has captained the Ireland under-19 team. He joined Man United from Villa FC in 2016 and has made a positive impression at the club.

He was nominated for United's Under-18 player of the year award at the end of his first season and has played for the club's Under-23 team.

O'Shea said that O'Connor may need to go out on loan to experience first-team football, but predicted a bright future for the 18-year-old.

"I’m sure he'll be thinking about the next stage for him, maybe a loan spell," the former Ireland defender said.

"He's getting plenty of games at United, they have that European elite level (competition) as well. That’s going to be kicking back in soon, he’ll have that to look forward to.

"Look, he’s at the age now where he may be thinking, as I said, if he’s not going to be involved in and around the first-team squad yet, to have that loan spell to get that increased competition and that increased experience at a higher level than the 23s and the European 19s.

"There's plenty of time for him yet, he has a fantastic future ahead of him."

Kieran McKenna, who was United's Under-18 coach before being promoted to work with the senior side, has also praised O'Connor.

"I think he has done fantastic and been a real bonus. You never know how a lad is going to settle in after coming from Ireland and it's a huge step up from the level he was playing at. He has been a really important part of the team at centre-half and in both full-back positions. I think he's a really talented boy but also a very solid and dependable character, which is an important quality to have in a defender."

It sounds as though O'Connor shares several similarities with O'Shea. The Reading defender ended up making 393 appearances for United, winning five Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups and the Champions League.

It would be unfair to expect O'Connor to match those feats, but he appears to be on the right track and definitely one to keep an eye on for Irish fans.

Former Republic of Ireland international John O'Shea was today named as the Tournament Ambassador for the upcoming UEFA Under-17 European Championship. The tournament, which takes places from May 3rd to May 19th, will see matches held in Dublin, Longford and Waterford, with the final at Tallaght Stadium.