Ryan Giggs made his first public appearance on Tuesday night since being revealed as the footballer covered by a privacy injunction when he played in Gary Neville’s testimonial against Juventus at Old Trafford — hours after journalists’ cars were attacked and vandalised outside his house.
The attack added a sinister tone to the controversy on the day Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson threatened to ban a journalist from Friday’s Champions League final press conference for asking a Giggs-related question during the club’s media day.
However, Giggs’s appearance from the start against Juventus at least emphasised the club’s desire for the furore not to affect preparations ahead of Saturday’s European final against Barcelona at Wembley.
Giggs, who made a 30-minute appearance against Juventus, was absent from first-team training yesterday morning, but the 37 year-old is understood to have trained away from the cameras prior to arriving at Old Trafford in mid-afternoon for Neville’s farewell game.
The incident outside Giggs’s six-bedroomed mansion in Worsley proved an ugly development, however, with police called after several cars were damaged.
A Greater Manchester Police statement said: “Officers attended and discovered at least six cars had been vandalised after a group of offenders arrived in a Ford Transit van and attacked the vehicles.”
It is alleged that journalists, photographers and cameramen were also pelted with eggs and flour as cars were left with smashed windows and slashed tyres.
Last October, police were called to Wayne Rooney’s Cheshire mansion after a group of hooded men had arrived at the United forward’s house at the height of his contract stand-off with the club. Rooney later withdrew his threat to leave and signed a new five-year contract after Ferguson urged him to change his mind.
Although Giggs remains at the centre of a political storm off the field, the Welshman’s appearance alongside former United team-mate David Beckham in Neville’s testimonial increased the likelihood that he will start against Barcelona on Saturday.
And he showed few effects of the distractions surrounding him off the pitch by setting up the first goal for Rooney.
Ferguson regards Giggs’s experience as a key factor against Barcelona. The Spanish club are strong favourites to win on Saturday, with Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi likely to be a central figure against United.
But Ferguson insists that he and his coaches will devise a strategy aimed at nullifying Messi at Wembley in a rematch of United’s 2-0 defeat against Barcelona in the 2009 final in Rome.
“We’ve played against Barcelona three times with Messi in the team and there’s always a solution to every good player,” he said.
“We hope we can find a solution on Saturday, but you’ve also got to recognise that they have other good players and we have good players, too.
“That is why it’s such an appealing game. I’m sure Barcelona are aware of the threats we can offer and hopefully that is the case.”
Ferguson admits that the key to stopping Barcelona is to eradicate the mistakes made against Guardiola’s team two years ago.
“When we lost the first goal it was that sudden lapse of concentration in terms of regrouping after we’d lost the ball. That’s what cost us really,” he said.
“They then had Messi running midfield, which made it very difficult for us, so the concentration is going to be very important in dealing with all the issues in terms of attacking and defending. That will be the key for us.
“The two semi-final matches [against Barcelona in 2008] involved fantastic concentration. That was the key for us and that’s a very, very important issue in terms of Saturday.
“I don’t think [Barcelona being favourites] is any advantage. It doesn’t matter because we don’t decide these things.
“I’ve just got to trust my players that they can perform on Saturday and that makes a difference. I know they’ll be ready and I think they’ll represent us very well.
“It’s about finding a solution to the game. It’s not just about Barcelona, it’s about us too, what’s best for us and the best way of winning the match.
“It will be down to how we operate the attacking part.”
Meanwhile, Barcelona’s squad flew to London on Tuesday night because of fears of potential disruption to flights later in the week caused by a cloud of Icelandic volcanic ash.
The club opted to fly direct rather than take a flight to Paris last night and then a train through the Channel Tunnel to London this morning. Barca had also considered an overnight train to Paris last night followed by another train to London today.
They has originally planned to travel to London on Thursday .