Manchester United legend Sammy McIlroy believes the Manchester derby on 30th April will decide the destiny of the Premier League title; but says the team being built by Sir Alex Ferguson is one that will “compete for years”.
Speaking exclusively to 7Cantonas.com, Sammy also praised the form of veteran duo Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, saying that if Scholes wanted to, he could still play for England. The pair have made crucial contributions to United’s title charge in recent weeks – a team that has at times relief heavily on young players this season has shown some inexperience, but Sammy believes the team should be commended for their progress so far.
“Considering Sir Alex is trying to build a new side for the future, and when you look at it the race for the Premier League this season is between City and United, there’s no doubt about that,” said Sammy. “I think it’ll go down to the wire. It’s disappointing, obviously, to be out of the European Champions League and the other cups because we’re always in there, but the Europa League is a trophy that we’ve never won. For me, it’s the start of a new side coming through which will compete over the years”.
Of course, one (or should that be two) constant(s) of every Fergie regeneration for 20 years have been Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. Scholes returned from retirement in January and has been in phenomenal form – both players were on the scoresheet in last weekends crucial victory at Carrow Road. “They’ve been unbelievable,” Sammy enthused. “Their experience will help in the run in, there’s no doubt, but the fitness and the dedication of the two of them at 37 and 38 has been remarkable. I don’t think you’ll see the likes of this again. For Giggs to play his 900th game at Norwich and scoring the winning goal is like a fairytale; Scholesy coming out of retirement and playing as if he had never been away is just unbelievable. They’re great role models for youngsters coming into the game and players actually in the game.”
Sir Alex Ferguson was moved to describe both Scholes and Giggs as the best players the club has ever had; having played 419 times for the club, Sammy is well placed to concur, and believes that both could even do more if they wanted. “They’re up there. I know the game’s changed but for them to bit fit and playing the way they are is incredible. If Scholes really wanted to, he could still play international football, and Giggs as well.”
McIlroy made his debut in a Manchester derby – scoring and having a hand in the other two United goals in a 3-3 draw, and believes that it will be that tie which will define the title race. “Obviously after 13 years at United, I want United to win it, I do think it will go right down to that game at the Etihad. Whoever has their noses in front after that game, I think will go on to win it.”
United play City on April 30th – before that, there is a huge encounter with Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow. David May previewed the game here, and the game was previewed on the podcast here. Thanks to Sammy for his time.