Ryan Giggs is convinced that Manchester United can upset the odds and win the Champions League this season.
The latest chapter in one of Europe’s most fierce rivalries will be written tonight when holders and competition favourites Bayern Munich come to Old Trafford for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash with United.
Giggs is the only survivor from the most memorable clash between the two European heavyweights 15 years ago. On that night in Barcelona, United produced one of the most dramatic and unexpected comebacks in history, scoring two goals in stoppage time to beat Bayern 2-1.
After such a woeful season under David Moyes, United are big underdogs with the bookmakers just to get past the European champions, let alone make the final in May and lift the trophy. But that does not faze Giggs one bit.
“Of course it is possible [for United to win the Champions League],” the midfielder said. “You need to play well, to get that little bit of luck which we didn’t have last year. Being criticised comes with the territory when you are a Manchester United player and Bayern are a fantastic team.
“They are favourites in most people’s eyes, but we are Manchester United and at Old Trafford we have had so many great nights. We don’t see ourselves as underdogs. It is going to be tough but it always is in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. We are looking forward to it.”
Giggs’ assertion that United are not underdogs flies in the face of all logic.
United are seventh in the Premier League after a terrible season.
The Red Devils are guaranteed to end the season with their lowest points total in Premier League history and they are ten points adrift of the top four with six matches left.
Bayern, on the other hand, have swept all before them under manager Pep Guardiola.
The Bavarians won the Bundesliga with seven matches to spare. They are unbeaten domestically this season and have only dropped six points in the league.
With such a gulf between the two current squads, United would be forgiven for watching a replay of the 1999 final to inspire them, but Giggs says that is not in their plans.
“We won’t do that,” Giggs said. “Some of the lads probably don’t remember it. All the players are different now apart from myself.”
Giggs’ appearance at the pre-match press conference suggests the 40-year-old could start tonight.
Although Robin van Persie’s hat-trick against Olympiacos secured United’s progression to the last eight, Giggs’ contribution to the second leg was arguably as big.
The United midfielder rolled back the years to set up two goals with a pair of glorious long passes.
It was only the 13th start of the midfielder’s season. Some claimed Giggs’ limited role under Moyes was as a result of a rift between the pair, but the veteran midfielder played down that suggestion.
“The relationship is good [between us],” Giggs said. “Of course as a player you want to play all the time. The last game was probably my first for seven weeks but you are not sulking, you just have to be ready to play your best for the team. There is no problem with the manager. I don’t know where that came from.”
Giggs may insist that his relationship with Moyes is strong, but that might not be enough to ensure the midfielder continues playing under the Scot next term.
A commitment to a healthy diet and yoga sessions does not mean Giggs’ body will be able to stand the rigours of another season at the club.
“I don’t know [if I will play on for another year],” said Giggs, who made his United debut some 23 years ago. “I’ll tell you after tomorrow! I am just trying to enjoy this season and then at the end I will take stock and see what I want to do.
“I am enjoying my football as much as ever, I feel fit and then at the end of the season, I will see what I want to do.”