Ryan Giggs Reveals Who His Toughest Opponent Was
Ryan Giggs has revealed that Javier Zanetti was the toughest opponent of a career in which he faced the world's best players and won everything with Manchester United.
During his time as a United player, Giggs grew at Old Trafford from a teenager to a man in his 40s, in an incredible season in which he won 13 league titles, four FA Cups, two Champions Leagues and numerous other trophies.
The Welshman played at the top level over several generations, often playing against the best, and of all of them he named Inter's legendary full back Zanetti as his toughest opponent.
"The hardest player I've played against was Zanetti for Inter Milan," he told MUTV Group Chat on Friday.
"Just run all day. He used to play in midfield so he was comfortable on the ball. He could defend, he was tough, he actually broke my nose in the quarter-finals. Zanetti had everything as a defender."
Giggs came up against the former Argentina star in the Champions League quarter final in 1999, when Italian football was at its peak and the last seven finals had featured a club from Serie A, with nine of the previous 10 UEFA Cup finals also including at least one Italian club.
United were victorious over Zanetti and his teammates at home, in a 2-0 win, before the second leg was a hard fought draw, with Paul Scholes' late goal finally confirming Sir Alex Ferguson's side's place in the semi-final.
After beating Inter they played Juventus in the semi-final and Giggs' late equaliser in Manchester gave the English side a chance in Turin.
The Old Lady then took an early 2-0 lead and the club's Treble seemed over. However their second half comeback ended Italy's dominance in the competition and the rest was history.
Talking about the current side Giggs praised the impact of Bruno Fernandes on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team, comparing the midfielder to two players the former left-winger played with, "The players he's [Solskjaer] got in have been really impressive. They've improved the team and the dressing room and obviously, in Fernandes, we've seen over the years the effect one player can sometimes have.
"You talk about the Cantonas, the van Persies... and I'm not comparing him yet to them but he's made other players play better and he's given everyone a lift."