Giggs stunned by United success
Manchester United veteran Ryan Giggs has admitted he never expected the club to stand on the brink of overhauling Liverpool's record of 18 league championships when he won his first, United's eighth, back in 1993.
Just a single point from United's final two games against Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool is all they need now, following Sunday's 2-1 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford, to claim the 19th league title in the club's history.
Giggs' has been part of all the squads that have finished top during Sir Alex Ferguson's reign since making his debut under the Scot as a 17-year-old in 1990. The Welshman, who put in another inspirational display in midfield at Old Trafford, acknowledged that the title is "not mathematically over" but was thrilled at the prospect of surpassing Liverpool.
"Fifteen or 20 years ago, you'd never have thought it," said Giggs. "It's a great achievement by the team and the manager to haul back our biggest rivals over the 1970s, 80s and 90s."
Although the title is not yet won, Giggs admitted the win over Chelsea was "a massive step forward". He added: "We've just got to finish the job off, hopefully next week. We've got to get one point from the next two games.
"It's a great chance for us and we'll try and get it done as soon as possible. Blackburn's a tough place to go but I'm sure we'll have loads of fans going to that one. It'll be a great atmosphere, it always is. And as always, we won't go for the draw, we'll try and win."
Only needing a draw to keep Chelsea at bay, United made the perfect start when Javier Hernandez opened their account after just 36 seconds.
Skipper Nemanja Vidic nodded home the hosts second midway through the opening period and although Frank Lampard pulled one back for Chelsea, they were unable to mount an effective comeback and could have been further adrift at the end.
After the match Giggs added to the praise being heaped on opening-goalscorer Hernandez, who has now become the first United player to net 20 times in his debut campaign since Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001, and the part he has played in the title charge.
"Twenty goals in his first season is unbelievable," Giggs said. "You are always in with a chance when you have a goalscorer like Javier in your team. He has made a fantastic impact, on and off the pitch.
"His English is perfect, which has helped, and his goal just sums up his season.
"Sometimes those chances can come a bit early for you. You are not quite up to speed. Thirty seconds, he gets a chance, he scores. He deserves everything that has been said about him."
In heaping praise on Hernandez, Giggs is deflecting some away from himself. He might have been slightly fortunate to edge the official man-of-the-match prize against Chelsea ahead of the tireless contribution of Park Ji-Sung, but at 37, Giggs brings a calmness to United's performances.
No wonder Ferguson raised the possibility of Giggs continuing into the 2012-13 campaign, having already signed a one-year contract extension to take him into next term.
The title has not been won yet, but the celebrations at the end, including Ferguson bowing to the Stretford End, left no one in any doubt it will be.
"Knowing the players, they won't muck it up," said Ferguson. "They will get the point. There is no doubt about that."
Derided so often this season, United have hit form at exactly the right time.
"The moment we won that first one in 1993, the door opened for us," reflected Ferguson. "To be involved every year after that is an incredible achievement.
"We got nervous at the end yesterday because we kept missing chances. We should have been out of sight. But that is the nature of Manchester United.
"We take it to the wire all the time. We give these poor souls in the stand heart attacks. They are sitting on the edge of their seats and biting their nails. I was one of them."
As Blackburn was the ground where all hope was lost for United last season, the Red Devils can avenge that misery. They also have the memory of Rovers being the opponents on that fateful night in 1993 when they ended that 26-year wait for championship number nine.
"We will give every respect to Blackburn and Blackpool because they are local teams to us," said Ferguson. "They are great football clubs and we will make sure we don't underestimate them."