Thursday, December 7, 2023

Giggs expects Man Utd to kill off Barcelona

Ryan Giggs expects Manchester United to use the bitter memory of their title slip at Chelsea to kill off Barcelona in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second-leg.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side missed a chance to effectively wrap up the Premier League on Saturday as Michael Ballack's late penalty moved Chelsea level on points with the leaders.

United can still retain the crown by winning their last two matches but they departed Stamford Bridge in a cloud of acrimony.

Their frustration at such a lacklustre display against Chelsea boiled over in spectacular fashion with Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra involved in separate angry altercations with stewards and ground staff after the match.

Now they must regain their equilibrium as Barcelona arrive in Manchester. After the first leg 0-0 draw last week, United are slight favourites but a score-draw would send the Catalan club through on away goals.

With so much at stake against Frank Rijkaard's side, United captain Giggs believes there is no chance of a hangover from their meltdown in west London.

“We've got to lift ourselves as there is no bigger game,” Giggs said. “We want to win the league and we want to get in the Champions League final and we've got a chance to do that.

“We've got the players. We showed that, especially in the second half against Chelsea and we are looking forward to the game.”

United's form in recent weeks is hardly encouraging for Ferguson's team. They have won only two of their last six matches and the injuries suffered by Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney at Chelsea have come at the worst possible time.

But playing for a first Champions League final appearance for nine years should be all the motivation United need. And if that isn't enough Giggs's team-mate Darren Fletcher insists the desire to erase the pain of that Chelsea setback is an extra incentive.

“The most important thing is to pick ourselves up. We've got some big games coming up now,” Fletcher said.

“We've got to use this anger and we've got to fuel it in the right direction and focus on Barcelona and then those two league games.”

A May 21 final against Chelsea or Liverpool in Moscow lies in wait for the winners on Tuesday.

The European Cup has been Ferguson's holy grail in recent seasons as the gap grows since his only triumph in the competition against Bayern Munich in 1999.

Ferguson's United legacy is secure but three previous defeats at this stage of Europe's elite club competition have left him unfulfilled.

Perhaps it was that desperation to not to crash out again that caused Ferguson to send out a cautious team in the Nou Camp last Wednesday. Barcelona were certainly unimpressed by United's timidity as they bossed the game.

All that was missing from Bara's most impressive display for months was a cutting edge.

Rijkaard could remedy that flaw by recalling Thierry Henry, whose brief cameo in the first leg suggests he could add a much-needed directness to Barca's fluent approach play.

The France striker expects United to be far more adventurous this time in what is certain to be a raucous atmosphere. But he is confident his side will cope with the Old Trafford experience.

“It's not like Anfield, which has an incredible atmosphere, but there is some atmosphere,” Henry said. “With Arsenal we played some incredible games there. It was always a pretty fight.

“It will be an important moment for United after playing Chelsea, especially knowing that playing against us won't be easy.

“We might have more space but they will also create more danger. In Spain they didn't play their game because we played well and we expect something different there.”




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