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Premier League

Ryan Giggs hails 'huge achievement' as Manchester United near record 20th title

Old Trafford veteran pays tribute to return of Scholes and blossoming of De Gea in goal

Ryan Giggs has claimed it will be "a massive achievement" if Manchester United go on to wrap up a record 20th league title.

Sunday's controversial 2-0 win over QPR at Old Trafford, followed immediately by Manchester City's defeat at Arsenal, means Sir Alex Ferguson's men now have an eight-point advantage at the top of the Premier League with only six games of the season remaining. Although Ferguson is leading the call for caution, it is hard to imagine United throwing that kind of lead away in such a short period of time.

The added potential of winning the league when United play Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on 30 April could make this campaign one of the sweetest for Giggs and his team-mates, who were written off after their 6-1 home battering by City in October.

And, given the opposition, the loss of so many experienced players and the need to integrate a new goalkeeper in David de Gea, Giggs feels this campaign deserves special credit.

"It would be huge," he told United Review. "When you look at the spending power Manchester City have, the injuries we've had, the experience we've lost – Scholesy [Paul Scholes]) for half the season, Edwin van der Sar, John O'Shea, Wes Brown.

"Then the challenge we faced bringing in a new goalkeeper – David de Gea came in for a lot of criticism early on but he's worked hard and he's showing terrific form at a key time – and the young talent we've blooded in, it would be a massive achievement."

The impact Scholes has had since his return from retirement in January should not be understated. Patrick Vieira, the football development executive at City, may have viewed Scholes' comeback as an act of desperation. However, unlike Carlos Tevez's return at City so far, after his exile for much of the season, the move has proved to be a masterstroke in terms of improving United's fortunes.

Evidently, the 37-year-old has lost none of his ability and dictated the entire rhythm of Sunday's game.

He has also rediscovered his eye for goal, belting home his third of the season to secure the latest triumph in an eight-match winning streak which has propelled United clear in the league.

"Paul has had a massive impact," said his midfield partner Michael Carrick. "We all know how good he is and what he brings to the team, on and off the pitch. To come back and play, straight away like he has, is amazing really. He has a lot of games left in him yet."

Although there has been no official announcement, it seems certain that Scholes will extend his career by another season, by which time it would be staggering if he had failed to collect an 11th championship medal.

It is a number exceeded only by Giggs, who is heading for his 13th, and whose injury-time winner at Norwich City in February might be viewed as one of the key moments in the entire campaign.

"You need those moments in a season if you're going to go on and win the league," he said.

"Moments like that provide belief and confidence. Just look at what Federico Macheda's goal against Aston Villa did for us a few years ago.

"Who knows? That game at Norwich may turn out to be one of those days we look back on at the end of the season as being pivotal."

It is fairly obvious to say that of equal importance has been the apparent implosion across town as, for all the theories now being put forward for City's startling collapse, the truth is they appear to have lacked the sufficient mental and physical strength to cope with a United side showing all the traits that have made them so successful for the past two decades.

Even tomorrow's meeting with West Bromwich Albion now looks far from an easy task for City, although as United boast a 14-match, 100 per cent record against Wigan Athletic, their next opponents, even victory is unlikely to get Roberto Mancini's side any closer in the title race.

"We can only do what we can do," Carrick said. "We beat QPR, had a good win at Blackburn and want another on Wednesday. "If we keep winning games the gap will stay the same. That has to be our aim."