Belfast Telegraph

Noisy neighbours City in for wake-up call: Giggs

By Simon Stone

Ryan Giggs believes Manchester City are about to face the acid test of their Premier League title credentials.

Like United, City have posted a 100% record from their four games so far.

As with their neighbours, they open their Champions League campaign tonight.

However, their relative inexperience in European combat means they must approach the challenge from their status as third seeds, rather than amongst the elite, which has been the case for Sir Alex Ferguson for so long.

While United have a tricky start against Benfica in Lisbon, the most arduous aspect of their remaining five games appears to be a long journey to Romania.

For City, home and away clashes with Villarreal and Bayern Munich mean taking on clubs with impressive recent European experience. Napoli do not have that, but Roberto Mancini realises instinctively no Serie A opponent can be dismissed lightly.

It is against this backdrop that, in an exclusive interview with MUTV, Giggs makes an understandable assessment.

“Manchester City will be right up there because of the quality they have and the money,” he said.

“They have been able to go out and buy so many top players.

“The test is the first season in the Champions League. Tottenham found it out to a degree.

“We found it tough early on to get that mix of playing in a Champions League game, which takes so much out of you physically and emotionally, and then have a hard Premier League game the follow

ing weekend. You need the squad to handle it, so we will see if they can do what ourselves, Arsenal and Chelsea have done over the years.”

With three final appearances in the past four seasons, United are enjoying a golden period in terms of European combat.

The fact it doesn't seem that way is purely due to the brilliance of Barcelona, who have denied Giggs and his team-mates on the two most recent of those occasions.

It is widely accepted the Red Devils were better at Wembley in May than they had been in Rome two years previously.

Equally, it is undeniable they were a clear second best, outclassed by a team who turned ball retention into an art form and possess a group of the greatest players on the planet.

“It is difficult to bridge the gap because they are such a good team,” reflected Giggs.

“But it is not impossible. Teams have beaten them. We beat them three years ago.

“(In personnel) it is not too different from then. What they have got is the experience and confidence of winning things. We have to overcome that. If we come up against them again, we will be confident of beating them. You have to learn from your mistakes and get better.”

And Lionel Messi has not even been mentioned yet.

“He is probably the best player of the last 20 years,” said Giggs.

“Cristiano (Ronaldo) runs him close but Messi has won the Champions League for two of the last three years and scored in the final both times.

“That is what sets people apart; big players score in big games.”

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