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O'Shea: Ole will revel in task of causing Barca surprise

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(l-r) Former team-mates John O’Shea and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pictured before an FA Cup game between United and Reading last January

(l-r) Former team-mates John O’Shea and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pictured before an FA Cup game between United and Reading last January

(l-r) Former team-mates John O’Shea and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pictured before an FA Cup game between United and Reading last January

John O'Shea believes his former team-mate at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, will embrace and not fear the challenge of facing Barcelona in the Champions League tonight.

From the highs of that long unbeaten run after Solskjaer took over as caretaker manager last year, things have been tougher for the Old Trafford club of late.

Three defeats in the last four games has seen United exit the FA Cup, at the hands of Wolves, and losses in the Premier League have also harmed their chances of a top four finish.

From a position where they were in sight of the top three to their current status, sixth place and three points off the top four, it's been a rough time for the Norwegian native and his squad, especially as Barca head for Old Trafford.

O'Shea was a casual observer as Barca showed their steel in their most recent away game, needing late goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi to earn a draw at Villareal.

Fantastic

"Barcelona, I watched the end of the game the other night. They looked dead and buried, next thing a moment of magic from Messi and Suarez, a fantastic finish," says O'Shea.

"They are back getting a point out of a game where they looked dead and buried.

"Ole and the lads will have their homework done. They'll know they have to perform very well to get anything from the game but they have the players to do it."

O'Shea has gone into battle against Barca in the Champions League and lost, as he was on the United side which was beaten 2-0 in the 2009 final, so he has been that soldier.

He now watches events at United from afar but is still confident that the old faces he knows from his time at the club can make an impact. "They've got a fantastic fight on their hands for the top four. I'm sure it's one that Ole and the players will relish," added O'Shea.

"They've got two games against Barcelona as well which they probably weren't thinking they were going to have. So there are lots of positives and Ole will know he has a fantastic opportunity and one he will relish."

O'Shea played in a United side which qualified for the Champions League, via the Premier League, on an annual basis but things in 2019 are more tricky but he feels that Solskjaer, nicknamed the Baby Faced Assassin in his time there, has steel as well as a smile.

Results

"Whatever level you're at in the Premier League, you have to be," O'Shea says when asked if Solskjaer can be ruthless if needed.

"You've seen the competitiveness of that top six, they've pulled away from the rest of the league.

"It's competitive obviously for the top two and the (other) four, four teams, a point between them, it's so cut throat at the top.

"You see Tottenham with the financial results they released and the stadium facilities, the competition is increasing all the time.

"But I know one thing: the people behind the scenes at Manchester United and having Ole, Mick Phelan and Michael Carrick, they will relish the challenge, he'll be looking forward to it and I'm sure he'll be getting backing as well."