Giggs: Chelsea also threw away a lead in title race
Ryan Giggs declared yesterday that Manchester United have no more reason to regret being reeled in at the top of the Premier League table than Chelsea do and warned that his side will go all out for victory to claim the crown at a stroke in Sunday's title-decider at Old Trafford.
Warning that any temptation United might have to seek out the draw that they need against Chelsea would be "dangerous", Giggs said that his club were not the only ones to have thrown away a points advantage in this unpredictable season. United were heading towards an 18-point lead on Carlo Ancelotti's defending champions until David Luiz's second-half goal turned around March's Stamford Bridge league game. Frank Lampard then stroked home the winner from the penalty spot and Chelsea have since almost wiped out the the deficit: a win at Old Trafford on Sunday would take them back to the top of the table on goal difference with only two games remaining.
But Giggs pointed to the lead Ancelotti's side had established by 23 October after chalking up seven wins in their opening nine games. "You don't have to worry too much about what's happening," Giggs said. "We could go back further when they were 10 points in front of us."
Chelsea's lead on United was actually eight points at best, when the current league leaders' indifferent away form left them sixth – a far less unassailable position than United's seemed.
The Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, who insisted in the early part of the season that Chelsea would be crowned champions, said yesterday that Ancelotti's players would take the title if they win on Sunday. "If Chelsea win at Old Trafford I think they will win the title," Mancini said. "It is very difficult but at this moment in time, I still think Chelsea. Every time you ask me, I say 'Chelsea, Chelsea', even when they were 15 points behind United."
But United's progress past Chelsea and Schalke to the Champions League final has delivered a major psychological boost to Sir Alex Ferguson and though a draw on Sunday would leave United requiring a further win and draw against struggling Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool to claim an historic 19th title, Giggs said that type of mentality would be troublesome.
"I think that is dangerous against a team like Chelsea who can score goals against you," he said. "We have to go out and attack like Manchester United do at Old Trafford. The crowd would not have it any other way. If we were sat back in the first 10 or 15 minutes, the crowd wouldn't have it. We've got to go and try and score goals and win the game."
The Old Trafford effect may indeed be decisive, with United having dropped only two points in the league at the stadium all season – against West Bromwich Albion in October. The 2-1 defeat Chelsea inflicted on United last April, decisive to their own title success, was the last time Ferguson's side lost at the stadium in any competition. "We always fancy ourselves at Old Trafford," Giggs said – a point the goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar reiterated. "All the top three teams have had games [like the Emirates match when Arsenal beat them 1-0] when they thought 'Jesus, how did we lose that one?' or 'what happened there?'" he said. "We don't lose many at home."
Though Patrice Evra is a doubt for the game – he underwent tests yesterday on a thigh injury sustained six minutes after arriving as a second-half substitute in the 4-1 win over Schalke in the Champions League tie – there is a conviction around Old Trafford that last Sunday's defeat at Arsenal should not obscure the run of form which preceded it.
"Just producing the level of football we know we're capable of [will be the key]," said Giggs, one of seven leading players rested against Schalke. Giggs admitted to a frustration that the title race is still not settled, though he argued that the Emirates setback went against the grain of United's run-in. "Our form's been good," the winger said. "Newcastle away, we could have won that and played well [in a goalless draw]. It's a tough place to go. We did not play well against Arsenal, but anyone can get beaten by Arsenal. Chelsea are flying at the moment but, apart from Sunday against Arsenal, we have been as well. It's two very good teams going into the game on good form.
"Both teams realise that [it's all over if we win it]. We realise that, and that's what we'll be aiming to do. It's going to be difficult because they're a top team, but our form is good. We're not worried about what's happened in the past. All we can control is what happens in the future, starting with Chelsea."
Giggs believes the Barcelona side United will face at Wembley on 28 May in the Champions League final are better than the group who beat United in Rome two years ago. "They had young players in that team who have probably got confidence from winning the Champions League, and a lot of them have won the World Cup as well," he said. "That breeds confidence. But we've got plenty of experience and plenty of hunger in the dressing room as well. They're top players and if they all click it's very difficult to beat a team like that, but it's not impossible. Just like they'll be trying to hurt us, we'll be trying to hurt them."