Football

Manchester United Vs Arsenal, Mon 13 Dec 2010

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Ryan Giggs claims Manchester United must use their performance in the seven-goal romp over Blackburn a fortnight ago as the benchmark for the remainder of the season.

Although Sir Alex Ferguson's men were sitting top of the Premier League before the weather intervened last week to prevent their encounter with Blackpool going ahead, like everyone else, they find themselves with plenty of questions to answer.

Seven draws from 15 unbeaten games ahead of Monday night's blockbuster confrontation has left many observers scratching their heads about how United have managed to get themselves into such a lofty position.

As Blackburn discovered, there is obviously plenty of talent remaining at Old Trafford, even if few think them as effective as they were in the days of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

And Giggs wants to see it more often.

"The Blackburn game is the benchmark," he said.

"Everything clicked that day. Some of the forward play was exceptional.

"That is what we want and what we know we're capable of doing.

"In games and training, the idea is to go out and reach it again."

It is doubtless the stuttering results; having to settle for disappointing draws against Fulham, Everton and West Brom when maximum points had appeared secure, and a wretched performance at Aston Villa when even Ferguson admitted he was not entirely sure how his side emerged with a share of the spoils, that has led to some rather unkind comparison with the Arsenal 'Invincibles', who went through the entire 2003-04 campaign unbeaten.

Giggs understands that. However, should his team-mates reach the end of 2010 with their present record in tact, it would represent half a season, which is an achievement the veteran Welshman feels is worthy of some acknowledgement.

"We're proud of the unbeaten record," he said.

"People haven't given us the respect we think we deserve but that is probably down to the manner of our results. We have thrown away games we should be winning."

Giggs, whose stellar career probably enjoyed its most notable moment against Arsenal with the 1999 semi-final replay winner that has been voted the greatest FA Cup goal of all-time, retains a healthy respect for the Gunners.

"Arsenal deserve a lot of credit for the way they have coped with losing a quality player like Fabregas and still carried on winning," he said.

Aside from long-term injury absentees Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves, whose career has been brought into fresh doubt following reports that United are considering paying up the remainder of his contract, which expires next summer, Ferguson has a full-strength squad available.

Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes are both desperate to be involved, the latter man possibly at the expense of Anderson, whose recent displays are said to have persuaded Ferguson to offer the Brazilian midfielder a new contract.

Arsene Wenger is in no doubt the Premier League is the toughest it has ever been as he looks to keep Arsenal top.

The Gunners have been beaten four times already, but still returned to the summit last weekend after victory over Fulham when United's game at Blackpool was postponed and Chelsea dropped more points.

However, this campaign has seen teams right through the league produce match-winning performances on their day, meaning no one can be complacent in a season where unpredictability has become a welcome trend.

Wenger insists this is down to the improvement of squads across the board, rather than the leading sides having dropped standards.

"I don't agree with the people who say that the overall quality of the league is lower this season. In fact, you can say exactly the reverse," the Arsenal manager said.

"Last Monday night, two quality teams - Aston Villa and Liverpool - met and both sides were in the bottom half, so that opinion is not really proven by concrete facts.

"The whole Premier League is more difficult for everybody and what you call mid-table teams and bottom-table teams have improved - every single game is a cup game for everybody."

Wenger, though, admits surprise Arsenal are still in such a strong position given the number of points they have dropped, losing three games at home.

"We are top of the table at the moment, and at the start of the season if you had said we would lose four of our first 16 games, I would not have thought we would be top, that is for sure," the Gunners boss reflected.

"It means the other teams have lost games as well, apart from Manchester United, but they have had many draws.

"We have not had many draws, and have won five games away. The positive thing is that if we manage to add home consistency to our away form, we will be very dangerous."

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Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Premier League
Manchester United

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