Ferguson full of praise for veteran Giggs
Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed incredulity that Ryan Giggs should be the brunt of so much criticism this season.
Now 39, the Manchester United winger has had his appearances restricted this term. And, on many of the occasions that he has been involved, Giggs has struggled to make the impact he has managed in previous years.
Not surprisingly, some United fans have questioned whether the veteran Welshman should extend his stellar career into his 40th year. Ferguson has never lost faith though and was rewarded with Giggs' best performance of the season in Boxing Day's 4-3 win over Newcastle at Old Trafford.
"How can you criticise a player that has given you 20 years?" said Ferguson. "Let's be honest. He may have an off day here and there because I don't play him all the time. The problem for a player of Ryan's pride and experience is that he probably wants to play more. He loses that game-play time that gives him consistency.
"But at his age I can't afford to risk him," he added. "I don't think I will play him against West Brom tomorrow simply because of the energy he expended on Wednesday to help win the match for us. But it is beyond belief anybody could criticise him. I don't understand it."
Not that Giggs seems too bothered about fending off such negative talk. He is far too concerned with securing title number 20 for United, which would be his 13th. "It is a great team to play in," he said. "We have so many options up front and the addition of Robin van Persie has brought that bit extra to the centre-forward position which already has the class of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck. We've also got Shinji Kagawa, who started the season so well for us but has been injured recently."
The problem, evidently, is the staggering number of goals conceded by a side that has established a seven-point lead at the top of the English Premier League.
Four clean sheets in all competitions represents a pretty poor return for a team so adept at defending. Yet, much as the room for improvement is obvious, as Giggs says, it is almost churlish to complain given the overall position.
"At the moment it's a case of the team scoring more than the opposition," said Giggs. "We've not had too many clean sheets which is what we all want, but to we can't complain at where we are at the moment. We're top of the league with a bit of daylight between ourselves and City and we've got through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League."
The return of skipper Nemanja Vidic may have a positive impact once the Serbian gets his match fitness back. Vidic may be involved tomorrow against a West Brom side who are one of the surprise packages this season.
And if previous performances are any guide, United cannot believe they would be able to fall behind three times and still pull the situation around, as was the case on Wednesday. "I'm not surprised to see Steve Clarke do a great job," said Giggs.
"He's had a few assistant manager jobs but he's taken control of the team now and taken them to that next level. West Brom were already a very side team under Roy Hodgson," he went on. "They are organised and score goals and I think they could stay around the top for a while.
"It all depends on injuries and suspensions. If they keep everyone fit then they'll have a great chance," he said. "Confidence will be high that's for sure because they are not in a false position. I have seen a few of their games and they've performed really well. Tomorrow will be a really tough game for us."