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O'Shea: it's reds for me


John O Shea as an eight-year-old.

John O Shea as an eight-year-old.

John O Shea as an eight-year-old.

A LIVERPOOL supporter as a boy, but a Manchester United player for the majority of his senior career, John O'Shea knows exactly what it means for Liverpool to have stayed off their perch for the last 23 years.

His loyalty to Old Trafford remains stronger that the puppy-fat era allegiance to Anfield (see below), but O'Shea feels that Liverpool can go on and win the Premier League title this season and will also "deserve" the honour.

"The majority of my friends are still massive Liverpool fans and they've been giving me plenty of grief. But that's part and parcel of it. When I went to United at the age of 17 and staying there until I was 30, you soon lose the allegiance of the team," O'Shea said on a visit to Dublin yesterday.

"I've been getting stick already from friends. They will take full advantage of it if Liverpool win the title and if they do win it, it'll be some achievement to go from seventh place last year to winning the title.

"They will fully deserve it. I think they have scored the most goals in the league, haven't they? I thought nobody would catch Manchester City in terms of goalscoring, so that has been an incredible turnaround. If they can do the business in the games against City and Chelsea, they will be in pole position."

At one stage when he met the media yesterday, O'Shea was confronted with the comment made by his former United team-mate Gary Neville that, being asked to choose between Manchester City or Liverpool to win the league was "like having a choice of two blokes to nick your wife".

That suggestion flummoxed O'Shea. "That's very well put," he smiled. "For me, purely because from being at the club for so long, the Liverpool game was always the bigger game.

"It's one of them. I presume Gary would have come to a slight City bias. Look, United fans are more concerned about themselves at a minute. United fans will be hoping Chelsea can do it.

"Liverpool have put themselves in a great position. You look at City, obviously Chelsea would have been a major blow losing against Palace.

"And City the way they started against Arsenal, they looked like they were going to steamroll Arsenal quite comfortably. But Arsenal came back fairly well.

"All along I've said it's City's to lose, purely because of the squad they have. Obviously people always talk about the points on the board at this point of the season and true, that's obviously important, but also when you're looking at the squad of City and how they've been playing against certain teams, they'd be confident they can win their remaining matches and that can get them the title as Mourinho pointed out.

"People were talking about psychological stuff, it's simple mathematics. City have the obvious chance, if they win their matches, they win the league. But Liverpool have City and Chelsea to play at home. The way they've been scoring goals, they are going to smell the chance of the title.


"You wouldn't have seen it coming from Liverpool, but you knew there was room for a big improvement there. They've shown that, maintained that consistency. At the end of the season, the league table won't lie, you finish where to deserve to."

O'Shea has played for Sunderland twice against the Premier League leaders this season, losing both games with an aggregate score of 5-2, and while he has his own concerns at the bottom of the table, trying to keep Sunderland in the league, he is aware that games for the title-chasing sides against the strugglers could prove to be crucial.

Chelsea found out to their cost last weekend that there's no such thing as a bankable three points as they lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. Jose Mourinho criticised the approach and attitude of his players, suggesting that the big names didn't turn up as it was "only" Palace.

"That has been Chelsea's issue throughout the season. They've been talking about the striker situation. And Liverpool have been blessed, they've been sensational all season. That's where Liverpool have an advantage over Chelsea," he said.

Luis Suarez scored two of Liverpool's five goals against Sunderland this season and that's why the Waterford man is a big admirer of Suarez.

"I played against him recently and he's always on your shoulder. I kind of enjoy playing against him, the test you're going to get," said O'Shea.

"In the time out he had, he improved physically as well and as a player he is much stronger. He has that clinicalness, to go down when he's touched, he's got everything. He is a world class player, simple as that.

"You are fully aware of him beforehand, you're watching the games and see him score certain types of goals. He is so sharp.

"He is a master of that little move. The defender is stopping and he's getting his momentum the other way. When he's improved with the strength and speed work that he's shown the last 18 months, he's become an unstoppable force."

O'Shea picked up five league medals in his time at Old Trafford, but this season the focus is on winning a relegation battle, the Black Cats' cause not helped by Monday's defeat at home by West Ham, O'Shea substituted after an hour for tactical reasons.

"We won't be concerning ourselves with the title race – some of the teams we are up against are involved in it, but we will be totally focused on ourselves and behind it all, you are looking at the results, trying to focus," said the Sunderland captain.

"There is no point in us hoping that teams lose, we are in the situation where we have to do something about it. We have the belief in there that we can still do it."