Giggs warns defence to tighten up or be 'punished'
Ryan Giggs has told his Manchester United team-mates they can kiss their title hopes goodbye unless they sort out defensive frailties.
Incredibly for a team of their immense talent, the Reds have gone behind eight times in their first 12 games, to leave them desperately needing to live up to a billing as the comeback kings of English football.
But veteran Giggs, 38, believes it has gone past a joke now, and United have to eradicate such carelessness from their game or they will get punished by top teams like Chelsea who they face at the weekend.
The Wales midfielder is already worried that United cannot allow the London club to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League by many more points.
And he suggested that another defensive shambles could leave them with a mountain to climb in the title race. “We recognise we cannot afford to let Chelsea get too far ahead,” admiited Giggs. “They are four points in front and have got off to a good start so it is a big game already.
“But against Chelsea if we do what we’ve done too often this season, and go behind, it will be tough to come back.
“We’ve spoken about this game, and it is something we have looked at, because you simply cannot go throughout a season going behind and having to rely on the lads up front to score the goals.
“Chelsea will punish you. They have changed it a little bit with the lads they have brought in. They brought in clever players like Mata and Hazard. They play in little pockets and are hard to pick up.”
It is a worrying situation for the Old Trafford club, as they enter a game which already has the look of a pivotal contest in the title race, given Chelsea’s flying start and their strength in depth.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed his concern at the defensive problems which keep gifting leads, but no one at the club is quite sure why it is happening – even if they know it cannot continue.
That is something midfield enforcer Darren Fletcher was quick to point out yesterday. “If anyone knew the answer to it we would eradicate it,” he admitted. “But we have to find the answer quickly and do something about it.
“Sometimes you can think about it too much. We need to relax and play our own game and not let it happen. We certainly cannot let it happen at Chelsea.”
Giggs is also puzzled by a phenomenon he has rarely encountered in his two decades at Old Trafford, given United’s dominance in that time. For a side of such quality to concede first in two thirds of their matches is an almost bizarre statistic.
“Eight times behind this season? There are two ways of looking at it. We know we have to sort it out, but we are also pleased that we are able to come back and show great character in eight games to do that,” said Giggs.
“We have the quality and the goals in the team. We have to stop giving teams an advantage though, because it’s tough enough as it is. It will always be tough against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.”
Giggs has been less influential in the United squad this season, but his experience could be vital this weekend, and he insists that he still has a big contribution to make as the campaign unfolds.
He added: “With the players we have got I don’t expect to start every game. You want to be in the team but I am experienced enough to know that come the business end of the season the experienced lads will be needed and I will be ready.”