Ryan Giggs is a freak! Considering he was a nimble left-winger for 15 years, he’s become United’s most productive player in terms of his ability to see a pass. Michael Carrick can pass a ball, but in terms of the vision to play a killer pass and the ability to play that pass over a long distance, Giggs is still United’s best player in that department. In some ways Giggs’ performance in midweek helped United keep their season alive. For him to produce that performance at 40, it’s difficult to find new words to describe him.
Looking at United’s wide players, they have often played with Juan Mata, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Shinji Kagawa in wide areas and they are all predominantly more manipulators or crossers of the ball. What Danny Welbeck provides by challenging the space in behind defenders is something unique for United. Quite simply, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie play better when Welbeck is on the pitch. It’s what Ji-Sung Park used to provide. People forget how important Park was in the seasons where Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Rooney were at United. He would make so many runs where he sacrificed himself. Welbeck must have made 25 runs behind the Olympiacos defence in midweek. He is someone who might not have the talent of Mata or Adnan Januzaj but I’ve got an incredible amount of time for him as a player. It supports the theory that you need balance in your team, it’s not always the best players that make the best team. If you think of Freddie Ljungberg when he played at Arsenal, he was perhaps not the most talented there but he gave that balance where he would occupy the centre backs and full backs with his runs so the likes of Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp could exploit the space he created.
Towards the end of last season, we really saw David de Gea grow. I was critical of him a couple of years ago, he was making too many mistakes and goalkeepers are judged purely by how few mistakes they make. It took him some time to settle at the club and I did wonder if he could deal with the physicality of the Premier League. But he’s improving in that department. He’s probably been United’s most consistent player this season. Other than against Sunderland when he let the ball through his hands, I can’t really think of him making any other mistakes. His improvement is huge from where he was 18 months ago. His handling of crosses is so much better now. He’s settled down and he’s far more composed. He’s certainly more confident. This season, when United haven’t been at their best, he’s performed consistently well and can hold his head up high. He’s definitely been their player of the season so far.
It was such a bad day for United against Liverpool last weekend. Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez made it so tough by running in behind the defence constantly. When United face West Ham tomorrow, Andy Carroll is not the type of player that will cause them the same problems that Liverpool did, but he will cause them issues aerially and more through his physical presence.
The Manchester derby on Tuesday will be massive. With the way that both teams are playing at the moment, City will have to be below par and United at their very best for them to win the match. Last weekend was big for City with them beating Hull City and Chelsea losing to Aston Villa. It was particularly big for them after the disappointment of losing in the FA Cup and going out of Europe. While at the start of the season I fancied United to win the league, I have thought for the last couple of months that City would win it and if they were to win at Old Trafford I would say they’ll go on to win the league. If they get beaten, it’s all open for Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
I’ve been asked who would I rather win the title, Liverpool or Manchester City? Neither! There’s no ideal answer for a United fan, on one hand it would give City a second title in three years and further confidence but if Liverpool win it they would get closer to United’s title haul. Arsenal are the team I’d like to see win the title if it isn’t United. I see similarities between the two clubs. They’ve shown patience with a manager for a long time without winning a trophy, which I believe are the correct values in football nowadays. By building for success over a long time Arsenal have seen the bigger picture. The last eight or nine years have been important to them for creating a magnificent stadium and now would be a great time for Arsène Wenger to win a trophy, whether that is the FA Cup of the Premier League. 1,000 games in charge is a great achievement for Wenger. He’s been a fantastic manager and introduced a new culture to football in England. In my opinion, his teams have always played football in the right way and he’s been a great servant to the English game and an ambassador for it.