Wednesday 21 February 2018

Giggs hails never-say-die spirit as United tighten grip on title

West Ham 2
Manchester Utd 4

Jason Burt

The fire still burns; for Alex Ferguson and for Ryan Giggs, the only Manchester United player who has 11 Premier League titles, just like the manager. And, aged 37, a 12th now beckons.

Wayne Rooney took the Sunday headlines, for good and ill, with a hat-trick and a foul-mouthed volley at the TV cameras but it is Giggs who was the constant in this win.

"No matter what the score is at half-time or how badly we're playing, we're always capable of comebacks like that," Giggs said. "It's a great characteristic to have." And it is a characteristic that he epitomises.

Ferguson, orchestrating from the directors' box as he serves his touchline ban, deserves the plaudits. His team selection may have been questionable -- Darron Gibson and Michael Carrick formed a static midfield axis -- but he has an unquestionable boldness.

Who else would have withdrawn Patrice Evra at half-time and pushed Giggs to left-back, asking him to launch the United attacks from a defensive station?

At 2-0 down, he threw on Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov, and would have deployed Michael Owen also if the scores had been level with 10 minutes to go.

That they were not, owed much to a remarkable 14 minutes from Rooney, who had spent the previous 65 providing evidence that he remains a player, a superb raking pass and a dangerous cross aside, struggling to regain his form.

He looked frustrated, ill at ease and not likely to take such a deft first touch to cushion Antonio Valencia's cross and then whip his shot back across Green for the equalising goal. Later he would strut back on to the pitch at the final whistle to claim the match ball having also beaten Green with a penalty after Matthew Upson was harshly adjudged to have handled.

Hernandez scored the fourth, diverting Giggs' cross into the net, providing yet more evidence of his poacher's instinct. That ball, defender Chris Smalling revealed later, had been signed by all the United players with varying obscenities but the defender was more interesting in discussing the mindset of the squad.

"It shows how big this club is and the emphasis on things, how we don't give up and it's paid off in the end," he said. "I'm definitely fitting into that philosophy. I'm starting to get a feel of the club's never-say-die attitude and I don't think many other teams possess that."

West Ham also capitulated. Two penalties from Mark Noble had grabbed them an unlikely advantage, but they were simply overwhelmed by United's attacks with Valencia outstanding -- "he had them on toast," Ferguson said.

What a difference this result also made to the Premier League table. United now look unassailable, West Ham in serious trouble and back in the bottom three.

At half-time it was United in peril, and West Ham up to 14th. As well as the visitors played, manager Avram Grant must ask himself if he did enough to stem the tide.

So did United receive the 'hairdryer treatment' at half-time?

"No, no," said Giggs, more aware than anyone else what that means having witnessed some dressing-downs over the years. "Calmness."

They certainly appear serene now. And on fire again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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