RYAN GIGGS RELISHING DERBY CLASH
Ryan Giggs has admitted games like Monday's Manchester derby are the reason why he is still operating at the highest level.
Should he play some part for Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium, it will be Giggs' 908th appearance for the Red Devils, an incredible 36 of which would have been against City.
As someone who, as a schoolboy, trained with the Blues and then grew up in the city, Giggs is acutely aware of how important these all-Manchester battles have always been.
Now though, it is something else, right up there with the very biggest matches Giggs has appeared in throughout his long and illustrious career.
"These are the sort games which I am still involved in football for," he said.
"They are big, title-deciding games. Apart from cup finals this is as big as you can get."
Three points in front but with a significantly inferior goal difference, Giggs knows the price of failure would be concession of United's place at the top of the Premier League.
Conversely, victory, or even a draw, would almost guarantee a record 20th league title. The importance does not need to be underlined.
Yet Giggs admits the players cannot get drawn into such matters, as difficult as it is to avoid.
"They've been saying for the last two or three years that every derby is the biggest ever," he said.
"Obviously with three games to go and almost being neck and neck going to the finish there is no mistaking this is a massive game and the biggest in recent times.
"But as a United player, you're used to big games. You have to block out all the hype and the predictions. That's been going on all the season anyway, with people saying City were going to win the title and then United.
"It's different for the fans. I must admit it's hard but you have to be professional and not let emotions get too far ahead of you.
"Our job is to train well and be ready to perform when kick-off comes."
The build-up would not have been quite so feverish had United not thrown away a two-goal lead against Everton last Sunday.
It was yet another of those mad days the Red Devils have experienced at times this season, such as the one that got them knocked out of the Champions League, or saw them beaten at home by Blackburn, or defeated 6-1 by City earlier this term.
"We've had reminders throughout the season where we've lost games or put in poor performances and we've always reacted. That's one of the reasons we're still up there," said Giggs.
"Hopefully, after the disappointment against Everton that's the case again."
For, as Giggs accepts, Monday night marks a collision between the best two teams in the country, both of which thought they had the trophy won at some point over the past couple of months.
"We're the two best teams, there's no doubt about that," said Giggs.
"Whereas Tottenham and Chelsea have fallen by the wayside, we've carried on going.
"City were on fire pre-Christmas and really we were just trying to hang on, then we've come into form over the second half of the season.
"Now it's come down to this. We're neck and neck and it's about whoever puts in the performance."
And that does not mean defending desperately and playing for the draw that would suit United just fine.
It means going for the win, just as they did in the Community Shield and on their last visit to the Etihad, both of which, via different routes, ended up 3-2 in their favour.
"We've got to try and win," said Giggs.
"Obviously if there's a few minutes to go and it's all square we won't be pushing six or seven players forward.
"But if we just try to defend all game we might come unstuck, so we'll go for it.
"I'm sure they will be fancying themselves to win because they're a good team and they're at home.
"But obviously the scenarios are more in our favour than City. We're Manchester United, we're the champions and we'll try and put out a statement that we deserve to win this league."
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