Ryan raring to go
There aren't too many footballers around with more experience than Ryan Giggs. In fact, only Paulo Maldini and Raul have made more Champions League appearances.
A Manchester United legend, Giggs is about to embark on his 20th European campaign and sat down with ManUtd.com to discuss Europe's premier club competition.
Like every team that comes to Old Trafford, Rangers will want to claim the ultimate scalp in football. Do you enjoy knowing everybody wants to beat you?
Yeah, it’s nice to know everybody wants to beat you. Sometimes you can lose sight of that a little. It’s only when you go 1-0 down away from home and the supporters are celebrating as if it’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened that you remember how much it means to people to beat Manchester United. Sometimes the fans even celebrate a draw against us as if it’s a win.
Fans were pleased with the draw, but the away games won’t be easy. Rangers and Valencia can be tough places to go and there’s a trip to Turkey...
The first time I played at Rangers it was ferocious. I remember it well and that sort of thing always makes it tough for visiting teams. I'm sure we'll encounter the same this season. I've played in Valencia, too, and the Mestalla is a great stadium and Valencia a top team. As for Bursaspor, we expect a similarly hostile reception to the ones we received at Besiktas and, before that, at Galatasary. They're fanatical over there. So I think we're going to come across some big atmospheres, but they're atmospheres I'm looking forward to.
Big atmospheres and European competition seem to go hand in hand...
Yeah, and to be fair we’ve seen our fair share at Old Trafford on so many occasions. The crowd can help carry us over the finishing line. It’s certainly not very nice when you’re an opposition player and you walk into a big atmosphere. It definitely affects you. Certain players thrive on it and love it, while others wilt and don’t perform as well as they should. It’s a very real factor.
We know all about Rangers and Valencia. What about Bursaspor? They’re something of an unknown quantity…
They are, but it's not a worry because our scouts will do their homework and watch plenty of DVDs. But you're right, there is a little element of the unknown. We can watch Valencia and Rangers on the TV quite regularly but we don't get to see a lot of Turkish football. We'll be well into the campaign by the time we play Bursaspor, though, so we'll be able to have a look at them in their games against Rangers and Valencia.
This is your 20th European campaign. What makes European football so special?
I think it's the challenges it throws up. You have to take so many more things into account – the travelling, the unfamiliar opposition, the atmospheres you may face. But it's not just about playing away from home – it doesn’t get any better than playing the big teams at Old Trafford. My happiest memories of my time at United involve big European games at Old Trafford because the atmosphere and, sometimes, the performance is unbelievable.
What can players learn from European football that you can't from the domestic game?
You can’t take anything for granted in Europe because of the skill of the opposition. You can be 3-0 up in a second leg and yet one goal could change everything. Ties are so finely balanced that one mistake can be the difference between victory and defeat. It’s like that in the Premier League to some extent but in Europe it’s magnified.
We welcome Rangers and Liverpool to Old Trafford in the space of five days. Is that prospect as exciting for you as it is for United fans?
Absolutely. It’s been a stuttering start to the season with the international breaks so it’s really pleasing to be involved in a big week like this one, with Everton, Rangers and then Liverpool in eight days. You can’t help but feel that we’re properly down to business now. And that’s pleasing – it’s what you want as a player. So far we’ve had a game a week, but to me it doesn’t really feel like the season’s kicked off properly until you’re playing midweek as well and the games are coming thick and fast.
How does preparation differ when you face a big week like this one?
The whole squad knows you have to be at the races and we’re all focussed on what needs to be done. So far this season there may have been some players who have been left out of teams or rested, but with so many big games in a short space of time you know you’re going to get a chance. It’s important you’re ready to take that opportunity.
You're almost 37: there must be aches and pains after matches these days…
I’m not too bad, actually. In fact, I’m probably better than I was a few years ago. I don’t run as fast or as far as I used to and I have this routine of doing yoga and taking ice baths – that seems to help and I feel quite good after games. The area where it’s probably changed is that I now struggle a bit to play Saturday, Wednesday and then the following Saturday again. I used to be able to do that without a problem but the energy levels after a game aren’t what they used to be. As for stiffness, though, it’s not really a problem.