Football Football

Giggs confident United are on course for title


MANCHESTER, England, December 30 – Ryan Giggs believes Manchester United are well placed to win the Premier League as the title holders look to finish 2011 at the top of the table.

The record 19-times champions of England will replace Manchester City at the summit if they mark manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s 70th birthday by avoiding defeat against struggling Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford on Saturday.

United have been chasing City — who now lead on goal difference alone and travel to Sunderland on New Year’s Day — most of the season but will receive a huge psychological lift going into 2012 if they leapfrog their big-spending neighbours at the midway point of the campaign.

And long-serving winger Giggs is confident United’s experience and ability to stay strong during the second half of the season will serve them in good stead.

“Obviously City have got off to a better start, but we’re pleased with where we are in the table and especially the form at the moment,” said Giggs, a 12-times Premier League winner.

“The experience that the manager, the players and the coaching staff have of what’s required in the second half of the season, as well as the overall hunger and desire to win competitions, will help us.

“Big players can’t wait for big games and towards the end of the season the games just get bigger and bigger,” added Giggs.

“For me personally, you want that in the run-in — you want to be involved in big games and going for the title.”

Since being eliminated from the Champions League earlier this month, United have won all their subsequent four league games – scoring 16 goals and conceding just one.

They are unbeaten in their last nine top-flight outings — winning eight — while two of United’s next three league games are against teams in the relegation zone.

Blackburn are in serious trouble, five points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.

United defender Phil Jones, who left Rovers for United in a £16.5 million ($25.4 million) pre-season move, is hurting for his former club.

“I’m still a massive fan,” said 19-year-old England international Jones. “As soon as we come off the pitch I always look to see how Blackburn have got on.

“I still have a lot of friends at the club. I’m sure they’ll kick on and things will improve. They’re a lot better than their league position shows.

Jones missed the crushing 5-0 win over Wigan on Monday due to illness but has since returned to training and should feature against his former club.

Rovers earned a battling point at Liverpool in their last outing but are still without an away league win this season.

However, manager Steve Kean has been lifted by backing he has received from rival bosses — including Ferguson.

“For him to take the time out to phone me and give me a message of support shows the stature of the man. I was really impressed,” said Kean, who is hoping to have Swedish international Martin Olsson back from a hamstring injury.

“What was said I would rather keep private but it was very encouraging,” added Kean of the conversation he had with his fellow Scot.

“It’s going to be a tough game. They are scoring goals and not conceding too many, so we know it’s going to be a tough task.

“But we have got to take confidence from what we’ve done in our last game at Anfield (when Blackburn drew 1-1). We’re going to have to at least give what we gave at Anfield — and more.”