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Ryan Giggs says Liverpool are bigger rivals than Manchester City

Liverpool are our biggest rivals: United veteran Giggs stokes fire by downplaying significance of Manchester derby

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UPDATED:

15:44 GMT, 6 December 2012

Ryan Giggs has claimed that facing Liverpool is a bigger match for Manchester United and a bigger test for any United player than taking on Premier League rivals City in the Manchester derby.

United and City are limping into the first showdown of the season, which takes place on Sunday, following midweek Champions League defeats, yet their dominance of the Premier League scene is such that the pair have already established a massive advantage over third-placed Chelsea, enough for many to render this season’s title battle a two-horse race.

The pair’s scrap for honours last season was only decided in virtually the last minute of the last game, when Sergio Aguero scored the goal that sent the Blues into ecstasy, but 39-year-old Giggs, who boasts a record 35 appearances in the fixture, refuses to lift City above any of the other fierce rivalries United have had down the years.

Downplayed: Ryan Giggs claims that United's rivalry with Liverpool is greater than the one shared with neighbours Manchester City

Downplayed: Ryan Giggs claims that United's rivalry with Liverpool is greater than the one shared with neighbours Manchester City

'It doesn’t mean anything extra because it is City,’ said Giggs. ‘Liverpool has always been the biggest rival for me. It has always been the biggest test.

'There are different rivalries. Arsenal were a brilliant team and we had some ferocious battles with them. Chelsea were also a brilliant team under (Jose) Mourinho and now City are a good team as well.

'The added dynamic is that they are on our doorstep. But we still want to win the league no matter who we are competing against.'

It is well over two decades ago now that Giggs turned up for training at City’s youth set-up wearing a United kit, eventually jumping at the chance to switch to the club he supported and has now made 920 appearances after captaining the Red Devils in their 1-0 Champions League defeat to CFR Cluj last night.

Until 2008, the thought City might actually deprive him of silverware was laughable.
Sheikh Mansour’s deep pockets have changed all that though.

And whilst Giggs agrees with Sir Alex Ferguson’s assessment that Chelsea cannot be written off, after losing out on goal difference to a side they failed to collect a single point off in their two meetings last term, the Welshman is aware how significant Sunday’s game can be.

Backlash: Both City and United suffered defeats in the Champions League this week

Backlash: Both City and United suffered defeats in the Champions League this week

Backlash: Both City and United suffered defeats in the Champions League this week

'We have found over the last couple of years that the derby, with the money City have spent and the quality they have brought in, has got bigger and bigger,' said Giggs.

'The two games against them were the difference last season. Hopefully we can get the right result and that will be the difference come the end of this season.'

It promises to be a fascinating occasion, not least because of the obvious flaws in their respective make-ups.

Bigger test: Giggs claims that travelling to Anfield to face the likes of Luis Suarez (right) is a greater challenge for United players

Bigger test: Giggs claims that travelling to Anfield to face the likes of Luis Suarez (right) is a greater challenge for United players

Old and new: Ryan Giggs takes on City's Neil Pointon in 1991

Old and new: Ryan Giggs takes on City's Neil Pointon in 1991

Still going: Giggs has made his fair share of appearances against both Liverpool and City

Still going: Giggs has made his fair share of appearances against both Liverpool and City

City remain unbeaten. Yet they crashed out of Europe altogether this week after the worst Champions League performance by an English club in the competition’s history and have drawn three of their last six games in the Premier League.

United boast the league leadership, but in doing so have conceded 21 goals – more than relegation threatened Sunderland – and Sir Alex Ferguson said earlier this week if there was any repeat of the appalling defending on show at Reading last weekend ‘God knows what will happen’.

'We are both in a similar situation,' said Giggs.

'We are in a good position in the league but haven’t hit the form we did in parts last season.

'That can be frustrating because we want perfection.

What a goal: Wayne Rooney scored a magnificent bicycle kick to see off City at Old Trafford

What a goal: Wayne Rooney scored a magnificent bicycle kick to see off City at Old Trafford

Heated: The two Manchester clubs have provided some thrilling encounters in recent years

Heated: The two Manchester clubs have provided some thrilling encounters in recent years

'We want to be the best team and each individual wants to be the best player.

'We must be doing something right because we are in a good position and there is the belief we can score goals.

'But that doesn’t mean we should neglect our defending and not try and stop the goals we are leaking because we need to stop conceding them.'

It is a point Ferguson has drilled home countless times this season already.

And it is one that is steering the United boss towards a feeling Sunday’s game will be a sterile affair.

New recruit: Robin van Persie will look to mark his first Manchester derby with a goal

New recruit: Robin van Persie will look to mark his first Manchester derby with a goal

'On paper, it is a match between the two best teams in the country,' Ferguson told United Review.

'As the table tells us, there is not much between us.

'We need to come out unscathed and with so much at stake I wonder if there will be a little bit of caution from both clubs.

'Roberto Mancini and I will both have to think deeply about our selections and tactics and there may well be an element of playing safe.'

Jose Mourinho is Alan Pardew"s biggest influence

Mourinho is my biggest influence and he'll be back, says Newcastle boss Pardew

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UPDATED:

14:26 GMT, 30 October 2012

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has revealed that former Chelsea and current Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has had a huge influence on his career.

Pardew told of how he spent time studying Mourinho's methods while the Portuguese was at Stamford Bridge and also revealed that he has kept in touch with the iconic manager.

Speaking to the Newcastle Chronicle, Pardew said: 'I used to watch Chelsea regularly because it was on my doorstep.

Mentor: Pardew says he has learned a lot from Mourinho

Mentor: Pardew says he has learned a lot from Mourinho

'It was when Jose Mourinho was there. There were things that I was seeing that I hadn’t seen in English football before.

'Some of the managerial traits that he was bringing I’ve learned from.

'And I can’t help but say I’ve nicked a few of them.'

The former West Ham and Reading boss, who is the current LMA and Premier League manager of the year, Pardew revealed that alongside Mourinho his former manager at Crystal Palace, Steve Coppell, was a big influence on him.

Late show: Papiss Cisse (left) celebrates scoring Newcastle's winner against West Brom at St James' Park on Sunday

Late show: Papiss Cisse (left) celebrates scoring Newcastle's winner against West Brom at St James' Park on Sunday

He added: 'The big managers that I’ve come across and been lucky enough to deal with have influenced me.

'The impact of the foreign managers can’t be lost on my education. Arsene Wenger is another.

'There are a few people who have influenced me throughout my career – Steve Coppell for sure.'

Pardew, 51, thinks that Mourinho will return to the Premier League in the not too distant future, while he also believes that the Special One's great rival, ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, will also be managing in the Premier League soon.

Old friends: Pardew with Mourinho (right) back in 2006

Old friends: Pardew with Mourinho (right) back in 2006

Pardew said: 'Unfortunately Jose is not in the country at the moment, but hopefully he will be coming back here soon.

'Pep will be, too. And then we really will have the best coaches in the world.

'That’s the one beauty about this country – we’ve had a melting pot of the best coaches. That’s why it is the best league in the world.'

LONDON OLYMPICS 2012: Nick Metcalfe"s review of the Games

A glorious British success story… make no mistake, the London Olympic Games were a true delight

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UPDATED:

22:06 GMT, 13 August 2012

Four years ago, I sat in a backstreet cafe behind Tiananmen Square and attempted to sum up in a few words a gargantuan show that had left the watching world breathless.

All I could come up with at first was the following five words: I’m so glad it’s over.

Four years on, I’m attempting once again to sum up the greatest show sport will ever know. And do you know what I’ve come to the same conclusion. Thank goodness it has come to an end.

I know that I won't win any awards for originality, and please don’t get me wrong, I love the Olympic Games with a passion that borders on a fixation. It’s just that I feel sated now, fully satisfied. I’ve seen enough, thank you very much, until the next time this scarcely believable roadshow rolls into our lives.

Farewell: The Olympic Games ended in spectacular fashion in Stratford

Farewell: The Olympic Games ended in spectacular fashion in Stratford

How to compare Olympics of past and present In a way, the answer is simple. Don’t. Not to any great extent anyway. Each one is just different, and perhaps none more so than the last two summer shows.

The 2008 production in Beijing was undeniably spectacular, but the Games was used by the Chinese government as an enormous propaganda exercise, a coming out party to beat all others. This was the subtext behind the grandeur of that Olympics: Nothing can stop China being the world's greatest superpower, and it will happen soon.

This Olympics in London, right here on our own doorstep, has been something else. Rather British in fact. Still a great spectacle, but laced with an eccentric touch, and like us strangely vulnerable.

Some things will never change at the Games, namely the brilliance of the sport. It's always wonderful, how could it not be World records, thrilling victories, dramatic comebacks.

We had Usain Bolt cementing his legendary status on the track, Michael Phelps against Ryan Lochte in the pool, Sir Chris Hoy in the velodrome. There was poster girl Jessica Ennis making her dreams come true, Mo Farah becoming one of Britain’s greatest track and field stars of all time, and all that seemingly endless British success in rowing and cycling.

But you know all this, you’ve spent the last couple of weeks glued to the sofa, watching the extraordinary theatre unfold before your eyes.

Golden moment: Mo Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m and complete a glorious double

Golden moment: Mo Farah crosses the line to win the 5,000m and complete a glorious double

What about the venues The Olympic Stadium was simply stunning. I have to confess that I thought it looked like an identikit stadium from pictures on television before the Games, but it proved to be a splendid arena. It had a noise all of its own, and it was cozy too, a fitting and homespun counterbalance to Beijing’s staggering Birds Nest.

Away from the stadium, there was
something distinctive and delightful about both the Aquatics Centre and Velodrome. The handball arena, The Copper Box, was so endearing, it was
nicknamed the 'Box That Rocks'. The ExCel Arena in London's Docklands,
which is more typically used for trade fairs and the like, rocked to
raucous atmospheres at the boxing and taekwondo.

If we're talking crowds, the sight of the whole Games for me was seeing the day sessions of the athletics played out to full houses. It’s hard to express in words how extraordinary this is. Even at very successful Games of the past, like Barcelona or Sydney, those sessions were played out to one man and his dog. Attending the heats at past Games has been seen as something of a booby prize. Not here, not when every ticket was so prized.

What a sight: A packed Olympic Stadium on the opening morning of track and field competition

What a sight: A packed Olympic Stadium on the opening morning of track and field competition

Compared to Beijing, the noise levels were ear splitting. I was at the Laoshan Velodrome at the 2008 Games, and it was comparatively very quiet there. Likewise at the Birds Nest. The British passion for sport simply cannot be denied.

The volunteers were smashing, but if I'm honest I find that they nearly always are. In fact, this reminds me, we often tend to get carried away at the end of a Games with how excellent the event has been.

Yes, this has been a smashing Olympics, make no mistake about that. Yes, the crowds have been superb, the buzz on the streets joyful. Yes, strangers have been speaking to each other on public transport, and that has been lovely.

But I was saying all this two years ago, after leaving Vancouver's Olympic Winter Games. That was a mad party too. Amid the pride of putting on such a grand show, we shouldn’t get carried away with ourselves in the rush to call this Olympics 'the best ever' or bestow it with any other unnecessary grand titles. It has been a particularly good episode of an extraordinary long-running show, granted. But future productions will be sparkling, too. Next stop Sochi, then Rio, and so on.

Legends: Usain Bolt (above) won another Olympic sprint double, while Michael Phelps (below) became the most successful Olympian of all time

Legends: Usain Bolt (above) won another Olympic sprint double, while Michael Phelps (below) became the most successful Olympian of all time

Michael Phelps

The natural British feel of the whole affair has certainly been a breath of fresh air after the formalities of Beijing. It really did feel rigid at times in the Chinese capital. However much you tried, you could never properly escape from reminders of the country’s appalling human rights record, and the questionable morality of the world’s greatest sporting event being held in that country.

Don't get me wrong, this is not the land of milk and honey, and only sweet things, but there has been something more wholesome about the summer of 2012, in comparison with 2008. Right from that glorious opening ceremony, with its clip from Kes and tribute to the NHS, it was very clear this would be an event with its own special flavour.

Personally, I watched the road cycling races pass through the village in which I grew up. I also watched the time trialists pedal furiously down the leafy Weston Green Road behind Esher train station in Surrey. The Suburban Games, if you will.

It's often the events you've seen in person that stick with you the longest. The joy of Chinese youngster Zhang Jike as he won the men's singles table tennis title, jumping over the hoardings and kissing the podium in sheer ecstasy. Being in a crowd of more than 70,000 at Wembley for a match involving Britain's women's football team. Cuba's Felix Sanchez weeping as he received his gold medal at the Olympic Stadium after winning the men's 400m hurdles. Shouting and cheering Anthony Joshua to his boxing gold medal. Wonderful deposits in the memory banks, all of them.

Pure joy: Zhang Jike celebrates after winning the men's table tennis singles title

Pure joy: Zhang Jike celebrates after winning the men's table tennis singles title

Fan-tastic: More than 70,000 were at Wembley Stadium to see Britain's women's football team take on Brazil

Fan-tastic: More than 70,000 were at Wembley Stadium to see Britain's women's football team take on Brazil

It felt like you were in an Olympic city where ever you went in London. It might sound simple, but I think the special signs plastered all over town helped. The Games was truly omnipresent.

I recall that the venues were first class at the 2004 Games in Athens, but over dinner and drinks in historic parts of town like Monastiraki, you could have been forgiven for forgetting the Olympics was taking place. There were no big screens, no Olympic paraphernalia. Heavens, there were hardly any souvenir shops. I read somewhere that London organisers were hoping to raise 70 million from the sale of memorabilia. Mind-boggling numbers, I know.

Spending time in Beijing's Forbidden City, or climbing The Great Wall of China, rank among the most unforgettable experiences of my travelling life, but there was often no discernible link to the Games in the summer of 2008. It often seemed like it was taking place somewhere else, even though I was in an Olympic city.

Felix Sanchez

Anthony Joshua

Emotion: Felix Sanchez (left) after winning gold (left) and Anthony Joshua during the British anthem (right)

I obviously can't go without a word about the transport. Let's be frank, it worked. The transport nearly always does work well enough at the Games, to be fair, but the efficient and smooth performance of London’s various transport systems did come as something of a relief. Obviously, it helped that so many locals were frightened away by those semi-apocalyptic messages from the Mayor before the Games.

So, what about that all-important legacy Has a generation really been inspired It must surely have been amazing to watch this Games through young British eyes.

What about the future of the venues It certainly seems like there have been more solid plans made for the future, more so than in Barcelona or Athens, where the places that once rocked to Olympic drama now lie empty, unused and unloved. I will certainly be one of those heading over to the Aquatics Centre to have a swim when it opens to the public in 2014.

We're also assured that the Olympic Village will be turned into affordable homes. Let's hope they really do go to those that need them.

For now, let all worries about that be cast to one side as we sink into our sofas and reflect on 17 days of outstanding sport, and great emotion.

I craned my neck at the end of a crowded hutong to watch fireworks over Tiananmen Square at the end of the Beijing Games. This time round, I could see the closing ceremony fireworks through the window of my East End flat. Very different places, but the same special show, truly the greatest event sport will ever know.

What to do next, without those morning rowing heats and evening athletics Some of you will be switching on ITV for the first time in weeks. Some of you may feel rather punch drunk, maybe even a little low. A collective hangover is taking hold.

Would you like a little piece of friendly advice Please, allow me. Buy a ticket for the Paralympic Games. Let's help to make that a magnificent success too.

There's always a next time: A sign at Stratford railway station reminds us of the 2016 hosts

There's always a next time: A sign at Stratford railway station reminds us of the 2016 hosts

Blackburn feel relegation chill while Manchester prepares title party

Lancashire's lesser clubs feel relegation chill while Manchester prepares title party

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UPDATED:

22:54 GMT, 7 May 2012

It blew hard and it blew cold along the M61 corridor on Monday evening, which was quite appropriate. When you are in a relegation scrap, every day can feel like winter.

Just down the road in fashionable Manchester, they may be fretting over the number of goals that separate first and second in the Barclays Premier League title race and preparing to do summer battle over a 30million Belgium winger.

In Wigan, Blackburn and Bolton, though, the worry lines have been running a little deeper. Disappear from the Premier League and it may be a long time before you come back.

Unrest: Blackburn fans show their anger at the club's owners and management

Unrest: Blackburn fans show their anger at the club's owners and management

On Monday night it was Blackburn's turn to suffer. Handicapped by inept owners and a novice manager, they succumbed to a relegation that has looked likely all season.

It has, however, long since been hard for the more modest to thrive in this corner of England. When you have Manchester United, City, Everton and Liverpool on your doorstep, it is difficult to escape the shadow and feel the sunshine.

During the Sky television and Champions League age – where money is channelled upwards – the more modest clubs fight gravity constantly, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the North-West.

Against this background, it is admirable that these three Lancashire clubs have survived together for so long among the elite group while more substantial clubs like Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday have left Yorkshire without a regular representative.

Equally, though, it has perhaps been inevitable for some time that at least one of them would slide back into the relative obscurity of the Championship.

Staying up: Wigan extended their Premier League stint for another season

Staying up: Wigan extended their Premier League stint for another season

Since Wigan won promotion in 2005, the three clubs have remained together in the Premier League. Only once, in Wigan's first season, did they all finish in the top half but not until this campaign have all three reached the finishing straight with the threat of relegation lingering.

There will be no sympathy for Blackburn from the neutrals this time. Nor should there be. The owners sacked a fine manager in Sam Allardyce, replaced him with the wrong man and have watched their grand plans turn to chicken droppings.

On the whole, though, Blackburn, Wigan and Bolton have offered the English game plenty to remember over the last seven years. It only seems like yesterday that Allardyce's Bolton plundered places like Old Trafford and Anfield with a team featuring players as diverse as Nicolas Anelka, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo.

Grim reality: Blackburn will start next season in the Championship

Grim reality: Blackburn will start next season in the Championship

Blackburn introduced us to the Turkish technician Tugay and, more recently, the English defender Phil Jones.

As for Wigan, their story is one the like of which will probably never be told again. A non-League club until the mid-1970s, they were yet to reach the second tier 10 years ago. Now, on the back of six wins from their last eight games, they will prepare for an eighth season in the Premier League.

Roberto Martinez's team struggled to put a lamentable Blackburn to bed. They were vastly superior, though, and as long as Martinez stays there is no reason why they should not continue to show others the way.

On Sunday it is Bolton's turn to fight for life when they visit Stoke. It will feel chilly at the Reebok for a few days yet.

Anti-F1 feeling grows in Bahrain as protestors target Grand Prix

Anti-F1 feeling grows in Bahrain as protestors target Grand Prix

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UPDATED:

07:30 GMT, 17 April 2012

Anti-government protesters in Bahrain
are expected to step up their campaign this week which is set to have an
impact on Formula One.

A demonstration, declared by one as
'a huge rally', is planned for Tuesday in the village of Al Dair on the
doorstep of the Gulf kingdom's international airport.

Volatile: Protesters clash with police in Bahrain

Volatile: Protesters clash with police in Bahrain

It is understood the focus will not only centre on pro-democracy rights, but also anti-F1 as the race returns this weekend after a two-year absence.

On Wednesday, when most F1 personnel are due to arrive, what has been described by a risk assessment group as 'a vehicular rally' is to take place along the two highways that lead up to the airport.

Although the protests appear to be the latest in a long line of campaigns that have taken place since the 'Day of Rage' 14 months ago, the suspicion is the rebels are intent on taking their cause closer to F1 as Sunday's race looms.

Green light: FIA president Jean Todt confident Bahrain race will go-ahead

Green light: FIA president Jean Todt confident Bahrain race will go-ahead

Gatherings are also planned in Bab Al Bahrain in north Manama, and Tubli, a village south west of the capital.

Of greater significance, however, is a demonstration scheduled for Thursday in Manama, which has avoided any unrest of late.

The protesters have so far been confined to the villages, which has prompted many to claim Bahrain is peaceful and fit again to host the race.

For the most part that has certainly been
the case, with the FIA claiming on Saturday security was not an issue,
and the reason why they decided to give the event the green light.

Campaigners are set to step up the protests

Concern: Anti-government protesters are expected to step up their campaign

However, whilst the demonstrations mentioned are planned, what is unknown are the actions of a dissident group known as the Coalition Youth of the Feb 14 Revolution.

The Coalition have previously declared 'three days of anger' over the course of the race weekend, and have vowed to do all they can to disrupt proceedings.

Regardless, FIA president Jean Todt insisted on Sunday there are 'good and secure conditions'.

Todt finally broke his silence on Bahrain following the race in China, speaking to German television station RTL.

Race must go on: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says Bahrain GP will go ahead

Race must go on: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says Bahrain GP will go ahead

Todt said: 'We have spoken… with representatives of the government, with the embassies and with neighbouring countries, as well as with European foreign ministries.

'We have made an extensive examination with a lot of checks. It is clear the grand prix can go ahead.

'There has been some controversy about it, but the FIA is a sports organisation. We are only interested in sport, not politics.'

Despite that, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has become the latest MP to call for the race to be cancelled.

Alexander said: 'F1 bosses should call off the scheduled Bahrain Grand Prix.

'To go ahead at present risks sending the wrong signal at a time when the authorities in Bahrain should be focused on delivering real reform.'