United comfort for Giggs

After a sad end to Wales's UEFA EURO 2004™ campaign, Ryan Giggs is focused on club football.

With Wales losing out in the UEFA EURO 2004™ play-offs against Russia following an agonising 1-0 defeat in Cardiff, it has not been the best of weeks for Manchester United FC winger Ryan Giggs. However, as United travel to Panathinaikos FC in the UEFA Champions League, the uefa.com diarist is keeping his spirits up.

By Ryan Giggs

It is still difficult to put into words the sense of disappointment everyone in the Welsh camp felt after losing to Russia. To fall at the final hurdle was truly heartbreaking. We genuinely felt that with home advantage, a huge team effort and perhaps a little luck we could achieve our dream. In the end, luck deserted us and Russia played well. The fact we came within 90 minutes of making Welsh football history only makes the experience more painful.

Back to United
It was hard to go back to Old Trafford on Thursday after the events in Cardiff. You can't just shrug off that kind of disappointment overnight but it did help being back in familiar surroundings with the same old friendly faces. All the boys were very sympathetic and although that doesn't change the fact Wales are not going to Portugal, it was encouraging to hear people saying we'd given it our best shot.

Blackburn action
But as always there was little time to dwell on what happened as United were back in action against Blackburn Rovers FC on Saturday. I started on the bench because the trip to Russia and back, and two games in the space of four days, had taken a lot out of me but I was delighted to get a second half run-out and for United to wrap up three vital points.

Greek odyssey
Next up is a tricky trip to Greece to face Panathinaikos on Wednesday night in the Champions League. Some people might assume it will be an easy fixture for us because we beat them 5-0 at Old Trafford in September but I assume those people have never had to play in Greece before. Panathinaikos will be a very different proposition on their own patch, in front of their own fans. They cannot qualify for the knockout stages, which often allows a side to play with more freedom going forward, and I'm sure they will be aiming to overhaul Rangers FC in third and book a place in the UEFA Cup.

Defensive strength
The good news for United is we go to Greece in confident mood and I've got to say a lot of that confidence is borne out of the superb performance of our back four this season. It is often said that United's greatest strength is our goal threat but I feel that doesn't give enough credit to the defence, especially over the last couple of years.

Confident approach
We've only conceded twice in four Champions League games this season and we also have the best defensive record in the Premiership. That kind of solidity gives everyone in the side a lift and it is so much easier going forward when you know you're not leaking goals at the other end.