Tuesday 05 March 2013

Champions League: Giggs predicts another Real goalfest

Man United veteran anticipates another high-octane encounter against Real Madrid in the last-16 tie

Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs (right) shares a joke in training with Robin van Persie

Ryan Giggs believes Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg encounter with Real Madrid tonight could prove as exciting as the last time the two sides met at Old Trafford.

"When you have that much firepower on the pitch, undoubtedly there are going to be chances and goals"
Ryan Giggs

On that occasion Sir Alex Ferguson’s side won 4-3 with the help of two goals by David Beckham, although United had the misfortune to emerge from the tie as defeated Champions League quarter-finalists as Madrid triumphed 6-5 on aggregate.

Ten years on and United can progress to the last eight with a goalless stalemate after sharing a 1-1 draw with the Spanish Liga champions last month, but Giggs, who along with Rio Ferdinand is the only survivor of that last encounter in April 2003, feels another goalfest awaits.

"It was two great sides and there were so many goals,” said Giggs on the eve of what will be his 1,000th senior appearance should he feature. “It could be similar tomorrow. When you have that much firepower on the pitch, undoubtedly there are going to be chances and goals."

A decade ago it was the Brazilian striker Ronaldo who earned a standing ovation from the Stretford End as he left the field after having scored a hat-trick. Now it is his namesake, Cristiano Ronaldo, whom United must prevent from doing what he did to them in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, when he cancelled out Danny Welbeck's opening goal, and what he did time and again to countless opponents during his six memorable years as a Red Devil.

"The older one, the fatter one, peaked as a centre forward at that time," said Ferguson, who was in Spain last week to watch the first of two victories by Madrid over Barcelona in the space of five days. "[Cristiano] Ronaldo is a supreme athlete. He never misses a game, has fantastic physique, two great feet, pace, he is good in the air.

"As a European night I don't think you get any bigger than this one. It is two great clubs with great histories. It is set up to be a marvellous game"
Sir Alex Ferguson

"My biggest concern is if he turns up because you expect problems. We have to try and curtail that as best as we can. It won't be easy because he does it every week. But it isn't something we should fear. If we go in worried about the damage Cristiano can do we forget what we can do ourselves."

Three weeks ago Phil Jones did an excellent job in shackling Ronaldo, the Portuguese international's goal notwithstanding, but Ferguson confirmed the 21-year-old has not recovered from the ankle injury he sustained against Reading a fortnight ago. Nonetheless, Ferguson can draw comfort from the fact that his side are 18 games unbeaten in all competitions.

"Our form has been consistent for quite a while, which we need for tomorrow night's game also. As a European night I don't think you get any bigger than this one. It is two great clubs with great histories. It is set up to be a marvellous game. I don't think it will be a disappointment."

UEFA Champions League round of 16

Tuesday 5 March
Borussia Dortmund v Shakhtar Donetsk (2-2*)
Manchester United v Real Madrid (1-1)

Wednesday 6 March
Juventus v Celtic (3-0)
Paris Saint-Germain v Valencia (2-1)

Tuesday 12 March
Barcelona v AC Milan (0-2)
Schalke v Galatasaray (1-1)

Wednesday 13 March
Bayern Munich v Arsenal (3-1)
Malaga v Porto (0-1)

* denotes first-leg results

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Key Points

  • Ryan Giggs believes there will be goals aplenty at Old Trafford on Tuesday night
  • Manchester United winger will make his 1,000th senior appearance if he plays against Real Madrid tonight
  • United need a win or a 0-0 draw to reach Champions League quarter-finals