An unused substitute in May's triumph in Moscow, John O'Shea says there is no reason why Manchester United FC cannot retain their crown this season provided they "play well and have a bit of luck on the way".
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Many Manchester United FC players have spoken this season about their desire to become the first club to retain the UEFA Champions League trophy since AC Milan in 1990 – but perhaps nobody craves that ambition more than John O'Shea.
The Irish international was in Moscow when United secured their third European Champion Clubs' Cup in May, yet played no part in the penalties victory over Chelsea FC having to watch the drama from the substitutes' bench. That prompted rumours over the summer that the 27-year-old, part of the first-team squad at Old Trafford since 2001, could move on for regular football. However, O'Shea has remained and is now targeting a more influential role in United's latest European campaign, believing like his team-mates that the side can indeed win back-to-back titles.
"It would be special if we retained the European Cup – very few sides have done that in the past," said the defender cum midfield anchor. "It is a major challenge but that is what Manchester United is all about, facing major challenges and taking them on. The first thing we have to do is get through the group stage and if we do, then I feel we have as good a chance as any side to win the tournament. We'll need to play well and have a bit of luck on the way, but the target is there."
Qualifying for the last 16 has become trickier for United than first imagined when the Group E draw was made. The unexpected home stalemate with Villarreal CF two weeks ago means Sir Alex Ferguson's side cannot afford many more slip-ups – and they now face an Aalborg BK team who showed by holding Celtic FC that they are not here merely to make up the numbers. "The result they got against Celtic was an eye-opener for us, it showed just how competitive and compact they are," added O'Shea. "There is sure to be a great atmosphere, we just have to use our experience and make sure we quieten the crowd down."
Trying to make sure those in attendance at the Aalborg Stadion remain in good voice will be home captain Thomas Augustinussen, who says a success against United would rank as the greatest result in his club's history. "Our team motto is 'always play to win' and that is what we'll be trying to do against United," said the midfielder. "No one thought we could get a point from Celtic but we did, and now we want to make even bigger history for this club. We would do that even by getting just a point on Tuesday."