O’Shea bids to blunt Blues

MANCHESTER UNITED defender John O’Shea is determined to end Chelsea’s title hopes just like they did their Champions League dreams.

The Republic of Ireland defender will go into Sunday’s crucial match at Old Trafford on a high after leading the side into a Wembley showdown with Barcelona on May 28.

O’Shea was handed the armband in the absence of Nemanja Vidic and the team responded by routing Schalke 4-1 on Wednesday night and 6-1 on aggregate in the semi-final.

He was one of eight changes to the team that lost to Arsenal with manager Alex Ferguson having one eye on the Chelsea clash with United only three points clear of their rivals with three games remaining.

United, however, have a remarkable home record this season and taken 49 points out of a possible 51.

Not only that, they defeated Chelsea 2-1 in the Champions League quarter-final at the ground after winning the first leg 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

O’Shea is looking for more of the same and said: “We have shown a lot of experience at Old Trafford in big games. We have already played Chelsea at home in the Champions League, so we know we will have to play well.

“Chelsea have hit a bit of form but we know we are a good team at home as well.”

Schalke were outplayed on Wednesday night with Antonio Valencia opening the scoring and Darron Gibson extending their lead before half-time.

Jose Manuel Jurado pulled a goal back but Anderson then grabbed a brace to complete a convincing victory over the shell-shocked Bundesliga side.

O’Shea said: “I was delighted the manager named me as captain. It was a fantastic occasion but the most important thing is we got the performance and the win we needed.

“Some of the performances that the lads put in really showed how strong the squad is. We could have scored a few more goals but we are very happy with the result.

“We lacked the same intensity as we normally do against Arsenal at the weekend as the boys put in such a great performance in Schalke. The manager did take a risk but he also had faith in the squad.”

O’Shea’s team-mate Ryan Giggs believes United set a standard against Schalke they simply must not fall from if they are to complete a memorable trophy double.

“If we play to the level of that performance, we will be very difficult to beat,” said Giggs. “That is the benchmark. We have to try and keep to it.”

Had United beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on March 1, they would have been 18 points in front of Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Instead, despite Wayne Rooney putting them ahead, a controversial Frank Lampard penalty ensured they went home empty-handed.

It triggered a run that has seem Chelsea amass 25 points from nine games, compared with 13 from eight for United.

The champions have fought back and have reached a point where a repeat of their win at Old Trafford last season would be enough to assume top spot on goal difference with only two games remaining.

“We have not thought about losing a big lead,” said Giggs.

“We have had some tough games where we have dropped points.

“Newcastle away. Arsenal away. In the Newcastle game we played well. There is probably only Arsenal in the last couple of months where we have not turned up.

“Generally our form is good. We are confident we can beat any team at Old Trafford.”

Beating Schalke has restored confidence too, even if United can hardly have expected to encounter such obliging opponents at such an advanced stage of the competition.

“Of course reaching the Champions League final will give us a boost,” said Giggs.

“Hopefully that will help us.

“Like any game we will go out to win it. It will be tough because Chelsea are flying at the moment but, at home, we are confident of getting that win.”

United need a big performance on Sunday and will doubtless require an even better one when they do eventually face a Barcelona side they defeated on their way to the final in 2008, only to get their comeuppance 12 months later when the Catalans gained their revenge in Rome thanks to a one-sided final which left Giggs feeling as flat as he can ever remember.

“When you lose a final but play well, you just accept it as one of those things that happen,” said Giggs.

“The problem in Rome was that we simply didn’t turn up.

“We failed to produce the football we are capable of.

“Obviously, Barcelona are a very good team and, in Lionel Messi, probably have the best player in the world at present.

“But I am sure this time we will give a better account of ourselves.”


Lifestyle

On June 26, we sat outside the first bar to open here since lockdown began on March 15. There are only two bars in the valley. Cafes serve drinks, but these are bar-bars, the kind that stay open after midnight.Damien Enright: Fruit trees are laden with their bounty as we prepare to leave

In October 1986, 52 mute swans, living peacefully on the Tolka in Dublin, were drenched in diesel oil accidentally released into the river. Swan-catchers went into action; only one bird died before they reached it.Richard Collins: Human crisis will offer chance for wild animal research

It's a typically Irish summer’s day of sunshine and occasional showers. Travel restrictions have been eased again and we venture forth to one of nature’s gems, Gougane Barra, deep in the mountains of West Cork.Donal Hickey: Gougane Barra has peace and wildness

When the ferryman pulls away from the pier and the salty spray of the sea hits your face the feeling of release from the mainland is deeply pleasurable. Your island awaits. Whether for a day trip or a holiday, the lure of the islands is as magnetic as ever.The Islands of Ireland: The lure of the less-visited

More From The Irish Examiner