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United will continue to thrive

MANCHESTER, May 21 – Ryan Giggs's contribution to Manchester United this season has been significant enough for him to have collected the English players' Player of the Year award.RYAN_GIGGSBut the veteran Welsh winger believes the current United squad will continue to thrive, long after he has called time on a career that has already delivered 11 Premier League winners’ medals and a record number of appearances for his one and only club.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have already wrapped up a third consecutive Premier League title and they are looking to retain their Champions League crown with another final against Barcelona.

Having already lifted European football’s biggest prize twice, Giggs knows that, at 35, there will not be too many more evenings like Wednesday in Rome.

But he is confident that the youthful nature of United’s current squad means that the club could be in for several years of domestic and European dominance.

Aside from Giggs, Ferguson has regularly used veterans Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes in recent years.

But this season’s progress has been notable for the emergence of several promising youngsters.

Brazilian full-back Rafael has made a major impression and Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans has made more than 30 appearances.

The United boss has also used the likes of Darron Gibson and Rodrigo Possebon in midfield and Federico Machedo and Danny Welbeck in attack.

And it is that injection of youth that Giggs feels could set United up for years to come.
He said: "I think the age of the team is relatively young if you take out me, Edwin, Gary Neville and Scholesy.

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"We have proved this season that we can get to the final again so hopefully this will give us the confidence to carry on and to dominate, like we have done in our own league and to do that in Europe we got everything in place to do that.

"Both us and Barcelona have won our leagues and performed well in the Champions League.
"It’s the dream final, two massive clubs with such history and who play football the right way, I think everybody is looking forward to it including the players."

United beat Barcelona 1-0 over two legs in last year’s semi-final thanks to a single goal from Scholes at Old Trafford.

But Ferguson feels that the arrival of former Barcelona player Pep Guardiola as coach at the Nou Camp has brought an extra edge to the Spanish champions.

Barcelona are known for their attacking brilliance but the United manager thinks that Guardiola has added a stronger defensive base.

He said: "Barcelona can be beaten but they are a fantastic team with some fantastic individuals.

"My experience of big football clubs when a former player takes over is that it doesn’t always work.

"I think there is always a big question mark going back to Barcelona after being a great player there and in his first season he had won the league so I think he has done fantastically well.

"I think his team reflects his own philosophy. I think assessing Barcelona, the biggest thing Guardiola has done is strengthen them defensively.

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"That has been been a change for them. I think they have matured and got more consistency in Europe than they had before and that is the main difference I see."

Barcelona are hoping that Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry can both overcome injuries to feature in Rome.

And Ferguson believes that they are both crucial to the Spanish club’s hopes.

He added: "I think Iniesta is a fantastic footballer, Henry is a different type of player I think Iniesta makes Barcelona work in midfield, I don’t think he ever gives the ball away.

"Henry is a completely different player, he is explosive and we know him from his days at Arsenal of course and he has always been a fantastic threat to us over the years."

Ferguson is hoping that Rio Ferdinand can prove his fitness for the game in Italy by overcoming a calf problem in time to face Hull on Sunday.

The England defender has missed United’s last three matches and Ferguson does not want to risk the centre-back against Barcelona if he has not had any match action for three weeks.

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