Giggs: Nothing can be taken for granted
Ryan Giggs is taking nothing for granted, even though Manchester United's grip on the Premier League title is beginning to strengthen. The Red Devils head to Birmingham City tomorrow still unbeaten following yesterday's win over Sunderland and with daylight starting to appear between them and their nearest challengers.
A quirk of the fixture list means Sir Alex Ferguson's men might well have been overhauled by local rivals Manchester City when they kick off at St Andrew's. Yet City would have played three games more for their single-point advantage, which leaves Ferguson with plenty of breathing space before that particular initiative is surrendered.
However, Giggs is not getting carried away. The veteran Welshman is acutely aware United have had two away games - at Blackpool and Chelsea - postponed and that, in this of all seasons, shock results can crop up at any time.
"You are obviously wary because of the way the league has been this year," said Giggs. "Anyone can beat anyone. We are thankful we remain unbeaten and confidence is high. But we realise that nothing can be taken for granted. It is a tough league and we need to be at our best in every game."
Anyone can beat anyone. It is a tough league and we need to be at our best in every game.Ryan Giggs of Manchester United
Yet the self-belief at Old Trafford must be fuelled by the knowledge United traditionally improve at this time of year. It is rare for the 18-time English champions not to kick on during January, and there is a possibility that by the time they encounter Chelsea for the first time in March, they could be too far in front for Carlo Ancelotti's men to do anything about it.
"We hope to get better in the second half of the season," said Giggs. "Our form over the last few weeks has been really good. We looked sharp against Arsenal and Blackburn, and it was the same against Sunderland. Some of the play we produced, the one-touch passing and the movement, was great to be involved in."
Giggs is too modest to claim a significant part in it, but his role running at the Sunderland defence, allied to Wayne Rooney's unselfish work up front and Dimitar Berbatov's hot streak in front of goal, mean that United look a fairly formidable force. Yet the 37-year-old is anxious that a defence built around the axis of captain Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand receives its share of the credit too.
"You need stability at the back, and we definitely have that," said Giggs. "It gives you a platform to go and attack. United have always had exciting, quality players going forward."
If there are negatives they come through the continued absence of Paul Scholes with a groin injury, and the loss of Park Ji-Sung to an AFC Asian Cup campaign with Korea Republic, which is likely to mean his absence until February.
"We are disappointed Ji is going away at this time because he has been playing so well," commented Giggs. "Any of the lads would have Ji in the team every time because of his work rate and what he puts into the game. But this is what the squad is for. We have players who aren't getting games but will be ready to come in and do a job."