Man Utd V Southampton - Match Preview

Southampton clash is sole focus for Giggs

Ryan Giggs insists Manchester United will not allow thoughts of Real Madrid to cloud their Barclays Premier League title assault.

It is now just a fortnight until United head to Spain for a summit meeting with Jose Mourinho and a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo to scrap it out for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The two-legged confrontation has captured the imagination of supporters worldwide, pitting arguably football's two most famous club sides in direct confrontation, even without the individual personalities involved.

However, Giggs is acutely aware three key Premier League engagements must be navigated first, starting with the Old Trafford encounter with Southampton.

And he knows the glamour of a night out at the Bernabeu must not be allowed to affect United's focus.

"We're not thinking about Madrid," said Giggs.

"Everyone was excited when the draw was made but you can't look too far ahead.

"You want to perform in games like that and be in good form going into them. That is what we intend to do and the best way of achieving that is to concentrate on the opponents immediately ahead."

As someone who has played a professional career now approaching its 22nd year under the guidance of one man, Giggs is not the most obvious person to ask about the upheaval at St Mary's following Nigel Adkins' recent dismissal.

Yet Giggs would have to exist in a bubble not to appreciate the wacky world football has become, and some of the seemingly strange decisions that are made in the name of progress.

And, as someone keen on entering the management game when his stellar playing career finally reaches its conclusion, the 39-year-old knows the pressures that come with being a top-flight boss.

More than that, Giggs realises players tend to be an expedient bunch on the whole.

"Players just get on with it," he said.

"Everyone was shocked when Nigel Adkins went, but ultimately players have got a job to do.

"The new manager (Mauricio Pochettino) will put his ideas across and players will just get on with it."

Striker Robin van Persie, who sat out Saturday's FA Cup win over Fulham, will return as he looks for a new personal landmark of scoring in six consecutive league matches.

In addition central defensive duo Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are also set to be recalled as United defend their record of never losing to the Saints in a league match at Old Trafford since 1988.

Meanwhile, Pochettino maintains his new philosophy for taking Southampton forward must build on the hard work of Adkins, and not look to just simply erase it from the club's memory.

Despite guiding the Saints to back-to-back promotions and keeping them clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone following a battling 2-2 draw at Chelsea, Adkins was unceremoniously axed and replaced by Argentinian Pochettino as the south-coast club sought a change of direction.

Southampton's executive chairman Nicola Cortese has defended the controversial sacking of Adkins, describing the timing as "perfect".

Nevertheless, the club came in for criticism after Adkins' name and photo were not included in the matchday programme for last Monday night's goalless draw with Everton at St Mary's.

Former Espanyol coach Pochettino used the break in domestic action to take the group away to a short training camp in Spain which he believes has helped the players and new staff to bond.

While Pochettino is determined to stamp his own mark on the team, the Argentinian remains conscious of what the squad had achieved before his arrival.

"We have our own work ethic and our own philosophy as to where we want to take the club," he said. "We have goals and ambition, we want to work for the team to achieve those goals.

"However, that does not mean we want to be anything contrary to what was being done before, it is not about that.

"It is more about our philosophy, how we want to take the team forward and how we want to achieve those goals."

With defender Jose Fonte still missing through injury, new signing Vegard Forren could make his debut at Old Trafford after joining from Norwegian side Molde.

Source: PA