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Ryan Giggs believes Manchester United FC's winning blend of youth and experience can prove pivotal in their pursuit of European glory.
'Enthusiasm and youth'
The long-serving Welshman paid credit to the young players in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad for the "infectious" enthusiasm they bring to the Old Trafford dressing room as he looked ahead to the semi-final decider against FC Barcelona. United fielded four attacking players aged 24 or under during the 0-0 first-leg draw in Spain – Nani (21), Wayne Rooney (22), Cristiano Ronaldo (23) and Carlos Tévez (24) – and Giggs said: "They've been so successful this season because of the enthusiasm and the youth they've got. It has been infectious and has carried on right through the team."
The 34-year-old has appeared in all four of United's previous UEFA Champions semi-final contests, and scored a crucial goal on the only occasion they won through to the final – the late equaliser at home to Juventus that preceded a 3-2 triumph in Turin in 1999. He added: "We've got a good mix of experience and youth. Experienced players use the experience that they've gained and we've got many players who've played in European Cup finals before, and players who nearly got there last season and who want to get there."
Giggs was one of four United players on show at the Camp Nou to have featured in a UEFA Champions League final, together with Patrice Evra, Owen Hargreaves and Edwin van der Sar. To put into context the winger's longevity, when he played in his first European semi-final, against BV Borussia Dortmund in spring 1997, Rooney was in his first year at De La Salle secondary school in Liverpool.
With this degree of know-how comes a truer sense of perspective and Giggs could almost have been preaching to United's young guns when he said: "First and foremost you just go out and enjoy it, it is a European Cup semi-final at Old Trafford. You have got to enjoy these games, that's why you become a footballer. These games don't come around too often, so you have to go out and make the most of it."
Recipe for success
To reach the final, Giggs went on, United would have to produce an attacking display to match their defensive efforts last week. "We defended brilliantly against a very good team who've got quality players, although we could maybe have kept the ball a little bit better. At Old Trafford, with the crowd behind us, we are noted for our attacking play, scoring, making goals, creating chances, and that is what we hope we'll be doing. Obviously we've not got to neglect what we did at the Nou Camp which was defend as a team, defend as individuals and stop them creating chances. We have to defend like we did but create a few more chances and I am sure we will."
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