Winning consistently for 20 years breads contempt. The Manchester United team of the last two decades have discovered that beating your rivals to titles and trophies time and time again doesn't win you many friends. Strangely, there has been one man – a man central to their success – who has more or less escaped the wrath of even the most imaginative opposition fans. The reason that Ryan Giggs gets away relatively unscathed is twofold. Firstly, he is very, very good. Secondly, and most importantly, he keeps his mouth shut. There is no bating the opposition, no kicking the crowd in the face, no run-ins with the law. Giggs simply loves his football, and works hard at maintaining his seemingly never-ending form. Who better, then, to talk us through the Champions League second round fixtures, and give us some advice on keeping in shape while he’s at it.
Are you surprised at how well Spurs have done in their debut campaign?
I’m not surprised at all. Spurs look really dangerous in Europe. With the pace of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale and quality playmakers like Luka Modric who can keep the ball, they can unlock good Italian defences like Inter Milan’s and AC Milan’s too. They have looked exciting this year. I think they will do well in Europe.
Is this Milan team more vulnerable these days? They’ve lost to Manchester United and Arsenal in recent years…
Milan aren’t as strong or as quick as they were 3-4 years ago, but you have to respect their experience and the quality players that they have. With match-winners like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andrea Pirlo and the Brazilian lad on the right Pato, who was brilliant against us, Milan might just edge it. They also have a great history and are one of the great clubs in Europe so you can’t take anything for granted.
Has van der Vaart made a big difference to Spurs this season?
He is that one player that every team wants to find who makes everything ticks. He’s in that position where he is just in between the midfield and the defence and he’s hard to pick up. He’s got great quality as well, of course, so his goals and creativity have been a massive help to Spurs. He’s been a big part of Tottenham’s successful season so far.
Barcelona humiliated Arsenal the last time the two teams met. Will it be different this time?
Arsenal were really taken apart 4-1 by Barcelona last season, but this year I do think it will be closer. I know that when you get disappointment you try to learn from it and Arsenal will do that. But when you watch Barcelona at the moment they are the one outstanding team in Europe. They have great individuals too like Lionel Messi who is a constant goal threat, but if any team can do well against Barcelona it is Arsenal.
How do you beat Barcelona?
You have to defend really well and take your chances. Arsenal have got their own players who can keep the ball and Walcott looks dangerous so I think they can trouble Barcelona. But they have to play their own game. If you try to match Barcelona, you will lose but If Arsenal play their own game, defend as a team and take their chances, I can see them winning. Walcott’s pace will really frighten Barcelona’s defence.
Copenhagen are in the Last 16 stage of the competition for the first time. Will Chelsea come through easily?
Chelsea are an experienced team and they have that experience throughout the side from Petr Cech and John Terry to Didier Drogba. This may be Copenhagen’s first time in the last 16, but they drew or beat Barcelona in the group stage so they must have some quality.
Who will be the key players for Chelsea?
Chelsea have great players who can win matches. I think the return of Frank Lampard is a big thing for them. He can bring goals from midfield and it will give them a huge lift. To score 20 goals from midfield for so many seasons shows his quality. So I think Chelsea have enough game changers like Lampard and Drogba to go through. You never know, but Chelsea are obviously favourites.
Manchester United last played Marseille in 1999. What do you expect from them?
We expect two tough games, especially away from home. I remember we played Marseille at the Stade Velodrome in front of 60,000 fanatical fans in 1999 and we lost 1-0 so we expect a tough game. But it will be a tough game for them as well.
Manchester United have won nine of their last 10 away matches in Europe. What is the key to winning away from home in Europe?
The key is to maintain possession and keep the ball. Possession is massive in Europe. We’ve got players who can keep the ball and keep the crowd quiet which is what you try to do in Europe and not give the home team any encouragement. Patience and experience are also important, but ultimately it comes down to having good players.
Marseille are not one of the stellar teams in Europe, but they have already beaten Chelsea and Liverpool in recent years. Would it be dangerous to underestimate them?
Yes, French teams are always tough to play against, especially, as I say, in those away games. They’re always very physical games. They have a lot of experienced players and they have beaten Chelsea so it will be hard. I watched them that night at Stamford Bridge and they played very well. It will be good to see Gabby Heinze again who has been playing at centre-half. He’s a really good, tough defender and we had good times with him at United, but we have enough match-winners like Nani and Wayne Rooney to win the game.
You're bang into your yoga. Has yoga helped you to stay fit?
It has helped on a number of levels. It strengthens your muscles, improves flexibility, but also keeps you fit and gets you out on the training pitch so you can train every day. You want to be out there so you need to get your body robust and ready for anything.
How do you recover after a game?
You put your body through massive strain during a game and it can take 2-3 days to recover. If I do a yoga session the next day, I’m nowhere near as stiff and I’ll be back training at the right level a lot quicker. It’s important to warm down after a football game too, which a lot of people forget.
How do the United players stay fit?
The important thing is to get the balance right. We do a lot of running in the pre-season to get our fitness up - hill running and things like that which I don’t really enjoy. During the season, we will do a lot of sprints and ball work. We do gymwork as well with some upper body weights and leg weights and a lot of core work, too.
Ryan Giggs’s yoga workout DVD Giggs Fitness is out now; giggsfitness.com