Ryan Giggs to draw on Manchester United defeats to build Nations League success
Giggs' list of honours competes with most players, but it's his high-profile defeats which stay with him the most
When Ryan Giggs looks back on the landmark matches that marked his Manchester United career, the defeats stand out in even sharper relief than the victories.
Giggs oversees Wales’s final Nations League Group B4 match against Denmark at a sold-out Cardiff City Stadium on Friday, knowing victory will take his side into the competition’s top tier and guarantee them at the very least a place in the play-offs for Euro 2020.
Denmark can open the same doors if they win and although Giggs is confident that his team are capable of avenging their 2-0 loss in Aarhus in September, he reminded his players that opportunities missed stay with you as much as opportunities taken.
"The ones I lost stand out more than the ones I won," the Wales manager said. "Obviously, ’99 in the Nou Camp [when United beat Bayern Munich to complete the Treble] was amazing. The best feeling I’ve ever had on a football pitch. But ’95, losing against Everton [in the FA Cup final], was one of the biggest disappointments of my life."
Wales made light of the absences of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey to prevail against Ireland in Dublin in their last group fixture, but will be able to count upon both of their star men against Age Hareide’s Denmark.
After a summer spent watching the World Cup on their televisions, Wales’s players are now 90 minutes from achieving a major milestone in the team’s history, having seized upon the possibilities presented by the Nations League to reverse their fortunes.
"There’s lots of incentives to top the group," Giggs said. "First of all, to actually win a really competitive group would be great. Then you get a second bite of the cherry with regards to qualifying for the Euros if you don’t qualify automatically. It has an effect on the seedings come the Euro [qualifying] draw as well.
"Going into League A, you know the next time the Nations League comes round, you’re going to be amongst the big boys in that draw. You want to play against the best."
With two goals, Christian Eriksen was Denmark’s match-winner in the reverse fixture and Giggs knows it will be essential for Wales to limit the Tottenham man’s influence if they are to send their fans out into the Cardiff night with smiles on their faces.
"He was the difference over in Aarhus, so we’ll have to be aware of his qualities and we are," Giggs said.
Bale trained with the squad at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday, having been progressively eased back into action after taking a knock to his ankle in Real Madrid’s 4-2 win over Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Ben Davies is absent through suspension, while Denmark must do without skipper Simon Kjaer due to a hamstring injury.
If Friday’s game ends in a draw, Denmark can secure top spot in the group by winning their final match at home to Ireland on Monday.
"It could be a final in the group [against Wales] or it could be a postponed final later on against Ireland," said Hareide, whose side have lost only two of their last 23 games.
"We played Wales at home and they’re a good side who want to play football. If you let them play, they are good. We have to focus on ourselves and have the same tactics as last time, be compact defensively and try to find a bit of space to attack them.
"All international games are tight games and at home they’ll probably be more even aggressive than in Aarhus."