x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Giggs still on for his famous five

As Manchester United prepare for the next hurdle in their bid for a unique quadruple of trophies this season, it brings back memories of their 1999 achievements.

Ryan Giggs is chasing a record fifth winner's medal in the FA Cup.
Ryan Giggs is chasing a record fifth winner's medal in the FA Cup.

Football folk will always make comparisons between great teams and players of different eras. As Manchester United prepare for the next hurdle in their bid for a unique quadruple of trophies this season, it brings back memories of their 1999 achievements.

Then, the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League all famously ended up in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet. Gary Neville, who was part of that side 10 years ago, believes United are now stronger. "I think this is a better squad," he said. "If you look at the numbers and quality, we now have seven on the bench and then you look at those in the stand too. We had about 18 players back in 1999 and now we have 22-25, mostly international players, competing for positions."

That competition for places has kept United at full throttle in their pursuit of honours. They face Spurs in the Carling Cup final next month, top the Premier League and face Inter Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League. Derby County stand in their way today for a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals and Sir Alex Ferguson, whose side have lost just once in 23 matches and have not conceded a goal in a record 13 league matches, is delighted with the talent at his disposal.

"People sometimes ask me what I consider to be my best side, and the short answer is that I don't have one," said the United manager. "I can give you my best 14 or 15, but better than that, all I can say is that it is a squad game and that we have a fine squad. In fact it is the best." Like Neville, Ryan Giggs was part of that Treble triumph and still going strong. He is chasing a record fifth winner's medal in the FA Cup and his teammate Dimitar Berbatov said: "You can imagine what people say about Ryan Giggs; he has achieved so much. He is one of the greatest players and some day they will put a statue of him outside the stadium."

The signs are ominous for Derby, but the Championship club did beat United 1-0 at home in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final before losing the return at Old Trafford. Their manager Nigel Clough said: "In a one-off cup tie, lightning can strike twice. That may be counter-balanced by their determination to put things right from the last time because they were below par that evening. "I'm sure they won't want that to happen again, so we're going to have to produce something close to that, if not better in order to get a result."

akhan@thenational.ae