29/04/2009 21:01, Report by Adam Bostock
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O'Shea savours birthday gift

John O'Shea's reprise of the unlikely hero's role came at a timely moment for himself, his team and his father.

The Irishman said his dad was uppermost in his thoughts after he scored United's winning goal against Arsenal, on the eve of his 28th birthday.

"It’s a little early birthday present for me but I have to dedicate that one to my dad," O'Shea told Sky Sports. "He’s been having a tough time of late, I’m sure this will cheer him up a bit."

The goal also brought cheer to more than 70,000 fans inside Old Trafford, not to mention millions of Reds around the world following the riveting Champions League semi-final. But the masses may share O'Shea's feeling that United should have won by more.

"On our first half display, we could have been a couple more goals up," said O'Shea. "Their keeper made a couple of great saves. We have a lead, we’ve kept a clean sheet and we know we’re capable of scoring an away goal at the Emirates. But the tie's definitely not over."

O'Shea believes a game-plan paid dividends for United, specifically the tactic "to squeeze high up the pitch as much as we could, just to keep the pressure on Arsenal and hopefully win the ball back to play from there.

"It worked very well, especially in the first half and sometimes in the second half. But Arsenal are a good team, they kept the ball well at times and it’s hard to get it back from them. I think in the second leg we need to improve our retaining possession but over all we have to be happy."

Sir Alex Ferguson praised the Irishman's attitude and even went as far as to promise him a place in the starting line-up should United make the final in Rome. "John is one of the great professionals of our time," said the boss. "He never complains and he’s happy to play anywhere. He knows that, over the years, he has not always been the number one choice.

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