Bruno Fernandes is "what you pray for" from a new signing, according to Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs.

Giggs, a 13-time Premier League winner at Old Trafford, has been happy with the quality and character of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's additions in the transfer market.

He has been particularly impressed by Portugal international Fernandes, who arrived from Sporting CP in January and helped United to an 11-match unbeaten run prior to the coronavirus crisis halting the season.

"Fernandes coming in has given everyone a lift, it's an exciting end to the season," said Giggs, per Sky Sports, as United prepare to return to action with a match at Tottenham on June 19.

"It's early doors to be talking about the players who have come in and made an impact [such as Eric Cantona] but certainly he's off to a great start. 

"He's made players around him better and has just fitted in straight away. That's always what you pray for when a new signing comes in.

"He looks a good guy as well, he wants to play for the club. He's exciting, when he receives the ball he will try things, if something doesn't come off he will try it again, he's brilliant to watch.

"He's given everyone a lift, the players around him, the staff, the fans. A really positive start but a long way to go yet."

United hope Fernandes will be able to form a midfield partnership with Paul Pogba, who is set to return to action in a season that has been heavily disrupted by injuries.

"Whether or not they will gel, you can't answer that question until the play together," said Giggs.

"Good players should be able to play with good players but we'll have to wait and see. They both have lots of quality, it's about if they can complement each other now."

Giggs was also pleased to see Odion Ighalo's loan spell from Shanghai Shenhua extended until January 2021, adding: "He gives you something extra off the bench when he's not starting. 

"Centre forwards always want to score goals, he's done that everywhere he has gone. It's positive that he is able to stay because he has done well. He makes an impact when he's on the pitch.

"Ole's signings have been good, not only as players but they are good people."

Ryan Giggs has been so impressed by "fantastic" Liverpool this season that he is trying to get his Wales team to play like Jurgen Klopp's side. 

The Reds' relentless pace in the Premier League has been too much for their challengers, with Liverpool having built up a 25-point lead over Manchester City prior to the season being paused in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

It was confirmed on Thursday that the top flight will resume on June 17 and Liverpool need just two more wins from their final nine fixtures to guarantee a first domestic title in three decades. 

Much of the past 30 years since has been dominated by Manchester United, with whom Giggs won 13 Premier League titles, but the Wales boss has nothing but admiration for Klopp's current crop. 

"With the obvious pause in the season because of COVID-19, I think there's a lot of questions still to be answered," Giggs told Sky Sports. 

"But I think what we have seen this year is Liverpool are a fantastic team, managed by a great coach in Jurgen Klopp and, it pains me to say it as a United fan, but they have been fantastic this season.

"Obviously they'll go on and, whatever way it is, they'll win the league and deserve it.

"They've had two brilliant seasons actually, last year pushing Man City all the way. They're a great team to watch.

"There were certain things that I've taken out of the way that Liverpool play, and taking it on to the way that I want to do with Wales.

"Hopefully United will bridge that gap and catch them up. But you have to give credit where credit is due and Liverpool have been fantastic this season."

United, now managed by Giggs' former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, are fifth in the Premier League, 37 points behind Liverpool.

Alex Ferguson was joined by coaching staff at Manchester United's training base, The Cliff, as normal at 9am on Friday May 28, 1999.

It was like any other pre-season planning meeting, as the men looked ahead to the 1999-2000 campaign over bacon sandwiches and cups of tea.

But, really, it wasn't like any of the planning sessions to have come before for Ferguson and his staff.

Less than 24 hours earlier they had all been on an open-top bus parade around Manchester, showing off an unprecedented treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League to an estimated 700,000 supporters.

The crowning achievement of that treble came the night before the parade, on May 26, 1999 in Barcelona – it was Ferguson's masterpiece, the iconic victory of his association with United.

The Road to Barcelona

United's route to the 1999 Champions League final was by no means straightforward – they were grouped with eventual runners-up Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Brondby, with the Catalans ultimately the one of the three giants to fall before the knockout phase.

A 3-1 aggregate win over Inter followed in the quarter-finals, helped massively by Dwight Yorke's brace in the 2-0 home-leg triumph, before a chaotic showdown with Juventus in the semis.

Ryan Giggs salvaged United a 1-1 draw with an emphatic late strike at Old Trafford in their first meeting, but United appeared to be crashing out in comprehensive fashion when Filippo Inzaghi netted a brace inside the first 11 minutes in Turin – his second taking a wicked deflection off Jaap Stam and looping over Peter Schmeichel.

But a satisfying glancing header from Roy Keane put United back in it, before Yorke's diving header levelled it on the night and gave them the away-goals advantage.

Andy Cole rounded things off late on, tucking in from an acute angle after Yorke had been felled by Angelo Peruzzi. United were in the final for the first time in 31 years.

'That night in Barcelona'

Ferguson stood on the Camp Nou touchline in the build-up to kick-off. He turned back towards the crowd and just stared as a mass of photographers swarmed in front of him.

He was a picture of calm, pure zen, as he gazed into the seemingly endless maw of seats in Barcelona's gigantic stadium. What was going through his mind? Who knows, but the idea of what would unravel before his eyes was surely not in his wildest dreams.

"My lack of vanity precludes me from being gutted about it," Ferguson had said in his pre-match news conference, as he was reminded of the fact rivals and detractors used his previous lack of Champions League success as a stick to beat him with. "I think what I've achieved stands for itself, and I'm lucky to be able to do that. What I've won as a manager – I'm blessed, so why should I look upon failure to win a European Cup as a tragedy for me?"

Anyone suggesting United were already at a disadvantage at kick-off might've had a point, as they were without the suspended Keane and Paul Scholes, and within six minutes Mario Basler's free-kick found its way into the bottom-right corner.

The many chances continued to come and go for a dominant Bayern, who had Samuel Kuffour marshalling Cole expertly. United were fortunate to be only 1-0 down at the break.

"[Ferguson] then said to us, 'This is the European Cup final - some of you may never get here again - make sure when you come in at full-time knowing that you have given your all and left nothing on the pitch'," Cole recalled of his manager's half-time team talk years later.

The Bayern onslaught continued. Mehmet Scholl's delicate chip hit the post and fell into Schmeichel's arms, before a Carsten Jancker overhead kick came back off the crossbar.

"When the chip hit the post, I didn't turn around at first because I knew that was 2-0 – when I saw it hit the post and come straight back to me, I knew we'd win," Schmeichel told UEFA in 2018.

And United duly rallied.

'Football. Bloody hell.'

Teddy Sheringham had been introduced from the bench for Jesper Blomqvist, leaving United with a single central midfielder – Nicky Butt – as David Beckham moved back towards the right and Giggs to the left.

Lothar Matthaus' withdrawal 10 minutes from time, he felt, emboldened United. Soon after, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Cole, leaving Ferguson's men with three up top – they were not about to give up without a final push.

"On the bench, we all thought we'd won. There was nothing to suggest United would score. What followed was unbelievable – it was like watching a horror film," Matthaus reflected.

As United enjoyed a late flurry, a Denis Irwin cross in the 90th minute was deflected behind. The corner could only be cleared as far as Giggs on the edge of the box, and his scuffed shot was turned in by Sheringham in similarly scruffy fashion, sparking scenes of disbelief on both benches – Oliver Kahn's half-hearted offside appeal falling on deaf ears.

Another attack up the left, this time led by Solskjaer, brought a second corner in the third minute of stoppage time.

Another tantalising Beckham delivery was this time met cleanly by a United head, Sheringham glancing it on, and before anyone could work out whether it was heading wide or not, the now iconic sentence was uttered on British commentary: "And Solskjaer has won it!"

With Kuffour getting drawn towards the centre of the box, Solskjaer was left in space and he stuck out his right foot to divert Sheringham's flick-on into the roof of the net.

Even in a match as unpredictable as this, United knew there was no way back for the German champions after two goals in 103 seconds. "All the Bayern players were on the floor - they didn't even want to kick off again. We knew we'd won it," Ferguson's assistant at the time, Steve McLaren, once said to the Daily Mail.

Bayern players, officials and sympathisers weren't shy in their lambasting of United and their luck afterwards – though Ferguson's succinct appraisal of the situation summed it up a little better in a post-match interview with ITV: "Football, bloody hell."

Ferguson's career with United was a truly remarkable success – the longevity, the trophies, the 'Fergie time'.

They all sum up this incredible era for United, and that night in Barcelona will be remembered as Ferguson's magnum opus.

But the defining moment? That came 36 hours later, as Ferguson's unrivalled work ethic had him already planning his next successes when anyone else would have surely been nursing the mother of all hangovers.

Former Manchester United star Ryan Giggs predicts a bright future for academy product Dylan Levitt.

Levitt, 19, was called up to the senior Wales squad by Giggs for a training camp last May, and again for their final Euro 2020 qualifiers last November.

He did not make an appearance for his country, with Wales having only secured their place at the finals with a 2-0 victory over Hungary.

Giggs regrets not having been able to give Levitt a chance on the pitch and says the youngster stands out in training as an obvious talent.

"When Dylan was in the squad, we had must-win games, so I couldn't really throw him in and put him in that pressure cooker," the Wales boss told MUTV.

"But, in training, he's one of the best. He's my kind of player – a good character, quiet but tough, and he's one that I'll be taking a big look at over the next year or so.

"I want him to develop and if he does and, if he plays more games, then he'll definitely be in the reckoning. He's a really intelligent player with a good range of passing and he stands out in training in every session.

"As I said, it's just a shame that I couldn't get him on the pitch."

Levitt, who has been with the United academy since he was eight, has impressed for the club's Under-23s side and was part of the young senior side Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took to Nur-Sultan to face Astana in the Europa League.

He started alongside James Garner in midfield in the Red Devils' 2-1 defeat last November.

May 19, 2013 was the end of an era. After 1,500 matches over nearly 27 years, Alex Ferguson's time as Manchester United drew to an end in fittingly thrilling fashion.

Perhaps it may have been truer to form if United had seen out Ferguson's tenure with a win, but there was something delightfully satisfying and apt about him overseeing a chaotic 5-5 draw to finish off.

Having already said his farewells to the Old Trafford crowd a week earlier after a 2-1 win over Swansea City, urging the supporters to back his successor David Moyes, Ferguson's champions had one last hurdle to overcome before a new era began.

West Brom were their hosts at the Hawthorns in a match that looked like giving the wily Scot a typically emphatic send-off – but the match action proved memorable for entirely different reasons.

'Crazy. Wonderful. Entertaining. Outrageous'

"If I needed a result to epitomise what Manchester United were about it came in game No. 1,500, my last," Ferguson wrote in his autobiography. "West Bromwich Albion 5-5 Manchester United. Crazy. Wonderful. Entertaining. Outrageous. If you were on your way to watch Manchester United, you were in for goals and drama."

Ferguson – who was given a guard of honour by the players and, amusingly, West Brom's huge mascot Baggie Bird – made plenty of changes to his side, though initially there were few signs of disruption, as with six minutes played Shinji Kagawa was the unlikely recipient of an even rarer phenomenon – an accurate cross from Javier Hernandez.

A Jonas Olsson own goal from a drilled Antonio Valencia cross made it 2-0 soon after, before Tom Cleverly fed Alexander Buttner to deliver a rasping finish – their combination highlighting the extent of Ferguson's rotation.

James Morrison pulled one back just before the break, but it was a change made by Steve Clarke at half-time that ultimately proved most decisive, as Romelu Lukaku replaced defender Liam Ridgewell.

The Belgian beat the unimpressive Anders Lindegaard with a tame effort from distance four minutes after coming on, only for Robin van Persie to steer home another Valencia delivery a few moments later and Hernandez tapped in a Ryan Giggs pass to seemingly wrap up the win.

But United's collapse was remarkable. Lukaku raced on to a throughball to beat Lindegaard again with 10 minutes left, before Youssouf Mulumbu finished off a well-worked move to make it 5-4.

Lukaku completed his first career hat-trick when bundling over the line in the 86th minute, and United were fortunate to hold on to a point.

'David Moyes has just resigned'

"I told them, 'Thanks boys. Bloody great send-off you've given me'," Ferguson wrote later that year. "David Moyes had already been named as my successor; as we sat in the dressing room after the match, Ryan Giggs teased: 'David Moyes has just resigned'."

It was the fifth time in Premier League history United had conceded five times or more in a single match, though the previous four occasions had all been defeats.

The thriller was also the highest-scoring draw in an English top-flight match since 1984 when QPR and Newcastle United also shared 10 goals.

Everything about the match was box-office – an own goal, bad goalkeeping, hapless defending, all-out attack and the old managerial master being pegged back by the hopeful young upstart.

Lukaku was 20 years and six days at the time, making him the youngest player to ever score a hat-trick against United – a record he still holds.

Thankfully for United, the Premier League title was already locked away, safe and secure from the 'noisy neighbours' Manchester City. Had it not been, this day would likely be remembered entirely differently.

The legacy

Ferguson's association with United will probably be remembered as the greatest managerial tenure of all time – many would argue that to be the case now, and with the modern sport rarely allowing for such time and trust, it's difficult to see anyone ever replicating such success or longevity with a single club.

Although he managed clubs for 39 years, 70 per cent of his 2,145 official matches in club management were at United, for whom his 895 wins is, unsurprisingly, a record.

The Scot also won 13 top-flight titles in England, more than twice as many as anyone else, while his 1999 Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble is yet to be repeated.

Ferguson's successes continue to hold great weight at Old Trafford. That era seems to have prevalence in many of the decisions the club still makes – from appointing a youth-driven Ferguson 'disciple' in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to refusing to appoint a director of football to oversee transfers.

That final match provided everyone with a final reminder of both the quality and excitement Ferguson brought to English football, and the greatest acknowledgement of his ideals is United are still trying to build around them.

Is that the right move? Only time will tell, but they are still searching for their first league title since the peerless Scot's departure. 

Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and David Beckham. The names are synonymous with Manchester United but the iconic 'Class of 92' sextet are behind the rise of League Two outfit Salford City.

All eyes have been on previously unheralded Salford since the former United stars completed a takeover in 2014, with the help of businessman and Valencia owner Peter Lim, who is the largest single shareholder at 40 per cent. Beckham became a co-owner alongside the Neville brothers, Scholes, Giggs and Butt last year.

It has been a rapid rise for Salford - four promotions in five seasons seeing the club go from the Northern Premier League Division One North to the fourth tier of English football for the first time in the history of the 80-year-old team.

Salford are now a full-time operation, far removed from the part-time outfit purchased by the 'Class of 92' six years ago, but there is no intention of slowing down. Reaching the Championship by 2029 was the initial target, with Premier League promotion and a fairy-tale date with United the ultimate dream for the group of former Red Devils, who won the treble at Old Trafford during their illustrious careers in Manchester.

Cameron Burgess swapped Scunthorpe United for Salford on loan at the start of the 2019-20 season and the former Australia youth international, who reunited with Graham Alexander at Moor Lane, told Stats Perform: "You hear about how the club is run and the first thing you hear is ambition, success. That's what it is all about. It's not so much that we have the resources and we're this and we're that, it's just success and that's what we want and you need to help us achieve that."

"Some people expect our owners down there, almost on the training pitch everyday sort of thing," he added. "It's not like that. It's the same as every other owner, they're very hands-on with things they need to deal with. But we have a manager and assistant manager who've played in the Premier League, it's not like they don't know what they're doing. Everyone does their own jobs, it's like not David Beckham is down on the pitch taking free-kicks. They're as hands-on as they need to be from an off-field perspective."

It is an ambitious and exciting project in Salford, where the Ammies were the subject of a popular documentary, detailing their rise to prominence in 2015. And expectations are high.

"You don't have to be told [about expectations]. It's there, you can see it," Burgess said. "Previous promotions, plastered on the walls. It's all there for everyone to see. You definitely feel that pressure but it's pressure in a good way. It's everyone moving in the right direction and making sure we're successful. It's that pressure to meet expectations but in a good way… it's what you want and what you play for to be able to succeed. You feel that as soon as you walk through the door."

Salford are a club close to the hearts of the 'Class of 92'. Scholes was born in the town, Giggs was raised in nearby Swinton, while the Neville brothers grew up in neighbouring Bury.

The co-owners have overseen improvements on and off the pitch, transforming Moor Lane into a 5,100-capacity arena with four new stands, modern seating, executive boxes and corporate hospitality. But the investment has not been without criticism.

Some supporters were frustrated when the team's badge and colours were changed from tangerine and black to red and white. Salford have also been previously dubbed the non-League Manchester City for their spending. Gary Neville was embroiled in a public spat with Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt in 2018 after being accused of "trying to steal" a Football League spot by signing Adam Rooney from Aberdeen.

"It's funny because obviously the people who criticise and say these things don't always know the full story and they don't know the reason behind things. It's all about the success. People on the pitch inside football, they probably know that a bit more, it's not that same vibe," Burgess said.

"We're sort of everyone's derby because they want to beat us and impress to show they can be the ones in our shirts. That's how it'll always be. The spotlight will always be on you, but you have to thrive on."

Salford were 10th in League Two and eight points outside the play-off positions when the season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, vying for a fifth promotion in six years.

"It's definitely strange because we've never been in this situation before. It's like an off-season. We've been told and we're pretty confident the season will restart, so we're staying fit and keeping healthy," said Burgess, who is representing Salford in the EFL Football Manager Cup.

"At Salford, it's been pretty much business as usual. They've been great in taking away the outside noise and making sure we're just focusing on what we have to do. We've been working hard as a team on Zoom et cetera. It's keeping fit and healthy as best we can. It's been pretty enjoyable."

It has been a challenging and unusual situation for Burgess and Salford, with the squad training individually amid the COVID-19 crisis, but the former Fulham defender added: "It's been pretty interesting, especially for me. I'm one of those that if you get me out on the grass, everything flows. The competitive edge takes over, it's another world. Whereas when you're by yourself, you just have to be on it.

"We have these little Zoom sessions and challenges, but it's interesting to hear what's important. You learn a bit more because you have to know what you're doing and what makes a difference. When you're on the pitch, it doesn't really matter why you're doing it, you're just doing it cause it's going to win or get an advantage. We're doing movements on the grass you don't realise you're doing, whereas when you're by yourself, you have to keep on top of those things."

Tahith Chong hailed Manchester United as "one big family" and said the club's togetherness is inspiring him as he aims to emulate former Red Devils winger Ryan Giggs.

Chong made his first-team debut in January 2019 and has since been pushing for a role in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans while making some impressive cameos from the bench.

The 20-year-old told the club's official website that Giggs, who retired from football in 2014, was among the players who blazed a trail for him to follow.

"I think there are a few names in there. I'd probably have either Ronaldinho or Ryan Giggs," Chong replied, when asked which players inspired him when he was growing up.

"I don't think there's any player I tried to model myself on. I think you look at players and you see them do stuff and you try to copy that in a way.

"But I'd probably say Ryan Giggs is one of them. Or Arjen Robben is one of them as well."

Chong, who joined United from Feyenoord's academy in 2016, signed a new contract at Old Trafford in March.

After the club reportedly resisted interest from Barcelona and Juventus to secure Chong's future until 2022, Solskjaer reflected on his "great potential".

Chong said the atmosphere around the club since his arrival has fuelled his progress, saying:  "For me, coming to the club at 16, it was just how everyone was.

"It's the togetherness of United. When I first came, just seeing that United is one big family. And it genuinely is. For me to see that was just amazing at 16.

"Every single day is just a new day to work hard and to keep improving yourself as a young player.

"I think that's the most important thing when you're young – just try to develop and improve every single day, and you do that by working hard."

Bruno Fernandes has lifted the mood at Manchester United and will only continue to get better, according to Red Devils legend Ryan Giggs.

Portugal midfielder Fernandes finally completed a protracted move from Sporting CP to Old Trafford in the January transfer window.

The 25-year-old has made an instant impact for United and scored for a third straight game in Sunday's 1-1 draw against Everton.

Wales boss Giggs, who won 13 Premier League titles as part of a distinguished United career, hailed the impact Fernandes has made on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

"He's a fantastic player. He's lifted the place, he has lifted everyone around him and it's still early days," Giggs told Sky Sports News. 

"I still think he can get even better.

"He's hit the ground running which is what you want – especially [after] signing in the January Transfer Window [because] it doesn't always happen.

"But he's fantastic and I'm pleased to see him doing so well."

United are back in action at Derby County on Thursday in the FA Cup fifth round, with Wayne Rooney set to feature against his old club. 

Bruno Fernandes has lifted the mood at Manchester United and will only continue to get better, according to Red Devils legend Ryan Giggs.

Portugal midfielder Fernandes finally completed a protracted move from Sporting CP to Old Trafford in the January transfer window.

The 25-year-old has made an instant impact for United and scored for a third straight game in Sunday's 1-1 draw against Everton.

Wales boss Giggs, who won 13 Premier League titles as part of a distinguished United career, hailed the impact Fernandes has made on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

"He's a fantastic player. He's lifted the place, he has lifted everyone around him and it's still early days," Giggs told Sky Sports News. 

"I still think he can get even better.

"He's hit the ground running which is what you want – especially [after] signing in the January Transfer Window [because] it doesn't always happen.

"But he's fantastic and I'm pleased to see him doing so well."

United are back in action at Derby County on Thursday in the FA Cup fifth round, with Wayne Rooney set to feature against his old club. 

The past 10 years has seen a number of extraordinary footballers hang up their boots.

In fact, so many have ended their playing careers between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2020 that you could quite feasibly create an entire league of teams and have them compete for the crown of the greatest ever. Now there's an idea, Mr Infantino...

While we wait for FIFA to cotton onto that concept, we'll have to make do with a single XI - plus a manager - of those who have stepped away from football this decade

Have a look to see who made the cut for a most difficult selection...

 

GOALKEEPER: EDWIN VAN DER SAR

A winner of eight league titles with Manchester United and Ajax, twice a Champions League winner and the second-most-capped Netherlands international ever, Van der Sar called time on his career in 2016. He is now Ajax's CEO.

DEFENDER: JAVIER ZANETTI

A candidate for the greatest right-back in history, Zanetti ended his 22-year career in 2014 after winning 16 trophies with Inter, including the treble of 2009-10, and 143 Argentina caps. Practically a one-club man, he is a vice-president with the Nerazzurri today.

DEFENDER: FABIO CANNAVARO

The last defender to win the Ballon d'Or, earned by leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup with some of the finest defensive performances ever seen in tournament football, Cannavaro was also twice a LaLiga champion with Real Madrid. He is Guangzhou Evergrande head coach these days.

DEFENDER: CARLES PUYOL

Centre-back supreme for the best Spain and Barcelona teams of all time, Puyol won 20 major honours for club and country, including the 2010 World Cup, where he scored the semi-final winner. He retired at the end of 2013-14, for once without lifting a trophy with Barca.

DEFENDER: ROBERTO CARLOS

Four LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, plus the 2002 World Cup and two Copas America with Brazil, but *that* free-kick back in 1997 is probably enough on its own to get him into this team. Roberto Carlos retired with Delhi Dynamos in 2015.

MIDFIELDER: CLAUDE MAKELELE

So good, they named a position after him, even though hardly any midfielders now play as he did. Makelele was the master of defensive midfield, a league champion with Real Madrid and Chelsea and a Champions League winner. He now has a youth coach and mentoring role at Stamford Bridge.

MIDFIELDER: XAVI

Perhaps the best ever central midfield metronome, Xavi passed his way to 25 major honours with Barcelona, plus one World Cup and two European Championships in 133 Spain appearances. He also won four trophies with Al Sadd, where he retired to become head coach this year.

MIDFIELDER: RYAN GIGGS

Arguably Manchester United's finest ever player, Wales boss Giggs amassed 963 appearances for the club. He won 25 trophies, including 13 top-flight titles - more than every club in England, except United, Liverpool and Arsenal. He retired in 2014, at the age of 40.

FORWARD: RONALDINHO

Barcelona's brilliant Brazilian led their revival from 2003 to 2008, winning two LaLiga titles, the Champions League and a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans in the Clasico. A Serie A title with AC Milan followed, as did the Copa Libertadores with Atletico Mineiro in 2013.

FORWARD: RIVALDO

The 1999 Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year, Rivaldo was a star for Barcelona from 1997 to 2002 but was still playing in 2015 in his homeland, 24 years on from his professional debut. He also won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, alongside Ronaldinho and...

FORWARD: RONALDO

'O Fenomeno' completed Brazil's magical trident of 2002. Ronaldo won trophies with Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid and Corinthians, where he retired in 2011. Without his injuries, he would likely be thought of as history's greatest number nine. Some think he is anyway.

MANAGER: ALEX FERGUSON

Manchester United rather went off a cliff after Ferguson retired in 2013, having won league title number 13 to add to 25 other major honours for the Red Devils and Aberdeen. The famous hairdryer still blows from time to time from the stands during United matches.

Wales manager Ryan Giggs says Gareth Bale remains in love with football and is more than capable of handling the criticism he has received in recent months.

Bale has been through a somewhat tumultuous time at Real Madrid, with questions over his commitment to the club arising amid form and fitness issues.

He courted controversy last month when he posed with a flag that read: "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order," following his country's victory over Hungary that sealed a place at Euro 2020.

However, Giggs believes Bale's vast experience means he can easily deal with any negativity.

"It's all noise that you can't control and it's about blocking out that noise. If you don't hear it then it's not going to affect you," Giggs told Sky Sports News.

"Gareth is at one of the biggest clubs in the world, he's won four Champions Leagues, he's been through everything so he can handle it [the criticism].

"A lot of people have sort of questioned his love for the game. He still loves the game and he loves playing it.

"He loves winning, he loves scoring goals, he loves making goals. It's not a problem to Gareth with the experience he's got."

A delighted Ryan Giggs hailed one of the best days of his life after Wales secured a place at Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Hungary.

Aaron Ramsey was the hero in Cardiff, scoring a goal in each half as Wales clinched the second qualifying spot behind Croatia in Group E – earning a shot at matching their Euro 2016 exploits following a semi-final run.

An uneven start to his first campaign in charge meant Giggs' men needed to win both of their closing matches to progress.

Victory in Azerbaijan over the weekend before success before their fervent home support saw them come good when it mattered.

"It's doesn't get any better," Wales manager Giggs told Sky Sports. "It's amazing. From where we were in the summer with those two defeats [away to Croatia and Hungary], credit to the lads the way they've come back.

"They've show grit, determination and quality. It's one of the best days of my life."

Ramsey's injury problems meant the Juventus star was making his first start of qualification on Tuesday.

"He's just showed that quality, that class," Giggs said. "The finishes… we missed him, but better late than never, I suppose."

Having never managed to represent Wales at a major tournament as a player, Manchester United great Giggs will revel in leading his country on such a grand stage.

"To be honest I haven't really thought about that," he added, referencing those playing disappointments.

"It's one of the greatest days of my life. There was a lot of hard work put in. Not only am I blessed with a good set of players but also the best staff I could ask for.

"The atmosphere every time we play in Cardiff… the fans are part of it. I was watching it in 2016 – you could tell the fans loved it then and they'll love this even more."

Gareth Bale ribbed Aaron Ramsey over his fitness record after the Juventus man fired Wales to the Euro 2020 finals with a brace in the 2-0 win over Hungary.

Needing victory to progress as automatic qualifiers from Group E at Hungary's expense, Ramsey marked his first start of an injury-ruined campaign with a headed opener from Bale's 15th-minute cross.

The former Arsenal favourite was on the mark again early in the second half as Wales made it back-to-back European Championship qualifications.

"It’s about time he contributed, isn't it?" Bale told Sky Sports.

"Obviously he's a world-class player, you like to have him back. He showed again what a great player he is, scoring the goals that helped us through."

Wales were the surprise package of Euro 2016, with Ramsey and Bale to the fore as they reached the semi-finals.

Now both senior members in an increasingly youthful squad under Ryan Giggs, Ramsey was desperate to secure another outing on the biggest stage.

"We had the best time of our lives in France," he told Sky Sports. "We missed out on the [2018] World Cup, so it was a big effort.

"I missed a lot of this campaign but it's all worthwhile. Chipping in with a couple of goals is amazing.

"It means everything. We inspired a nation last time out. We wanted to do it again.

"There are some players here who haven’t experienced this. We wanted to give them a taste of it as well. We've got a great squad, a lot of great players coming through."

Speaking alongside Bale, Ramsey added: "There's still some life left in our legs yet. We're enjoying it. We'll enjoy tonight now as well."

Aaron Ramsey was Wales' hero as Ryan Giggs' side secured qualification for Euro 2020 with a 2-0 home win over Hungary.

One of the stand-out performers in his country's surprise run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Ramsey was making his first start of the current campaign following persisted fitness problems.

But the Juventus midfielder re-announced himself in style at a fervent Cardiff City Stadium, scoring a goal in each half as Wales deservedly claimed the win they needed to leapfrog Hungary and take the second automatic qualifying spot in Group E.

Gareth Bale, Daniel James and the goalscorer buzzed effectively behind imposing targetman Kieffer Moore throughout, although Giggs was also indebted to some first-half heroics from goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

Wales began confidently and, when Adam Lang made the mistake of showing Bale on to his left foot on the right flank, the Real Madrid star whipped in an inviting cross for Ramsey to gleefully nod home.

Another wonderful Bale delivery – this time right-footed – saw Moore head narrowly wide in the 29th minute.

Hennessy produced a remarkable double-save to thwart Dominik Szoboszlai and Roland Sallai at close quarters in the 34th minute and it would prove a pivotal moment.

Instead of chasing the game, Wales were able to resume in composed fashion after the break and they soon had breathing space.

Moore – a handful in the air throughout for the Hungary defence - knocked down Ben Davies' 47th-minute set-piece and Ramsey, left negligently unmarked for a man of his finishing capabilities, made no mistake.

Giggs' eye-catching attacking midfield trio started to run through their repertoire, with Bale fizzing a free-kick narrowly over before James cut in to curl a shot just beyond the top-right corner.

An awful challenge from Istvan Kovacs on fellow substitute Ethan Ampadu highlighted Hungary's simmering frustration, while Peter Gulacsi saved with his boot to deny Ramsey the match ball 15 minutes from time.

What does it mean? Back-to-back Euros for Wales

Although UEFA's expansion to a 24-team tournament has leant a helping hand, Wales' achievement in reaching consecutive European Championships is a significant one for a country whose previous major tournament was the 1958 World Cup. Giggs has remained committed to letting promising youthful players flourish alongside his established stars, despite a rocky start in the group, and deserves his share of credit.

Rambo draws first and last blood

Wales got themselves in position without Ramsey but there is no doubt they go up a level with the former Arsenal man in their line-up. Fitness permitting, no nation will relish facing Bale, James and Ramsey in tandem come June.

Lang error costly for Hungary

That said, there are better ways to combat Bale than ushering him on to his lethal left foot to set up the opener. Hungary's night might still have been one of savour but for Lang's lapse.

What's next

Hungary get another bite at qualification in March's play-offs – the dream of turning out in the finals at Budapest's Puskas Arena still alive. Bale and his team-mates can dream of another unlikely tilt at European glory.

Gareth Bale believes the euphoric feeling of Wales' run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016 will spur Ryan Giggs' side on against Hungary.

Following a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Saturday, Wales head into their final qualifying match knowing a win will be enough to secure a place at Euro 2020.

Bale scored three goals at the previous finals as Wales - with Chris Coleman in charge - reached the last four in France, going out to eventual champions Portugal.

The Real Madrid forward has claimed Wales can use the experiences gained from three years ago, plus their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, as inspiration heading into Tuesday's crucial clash in Cardiff.

"I think we can use both of [the experiences] to our advantage," Bale told a news conference.

"We have got the kind of euphoria of qualifying for our first Euros and doing so well at the competition that we really want to do that again.

"We've also got the negatives of knowing how it feels to miss out on qualifying for a tournament like we did with the World Cup.

"We can see how we don't want to feel after the game. We know prior to this game we can push and push not to feel like that again, because it's not a feeling you want in the dressing room after the game.

"The experience of qualifying for the Euros was massive and something I've never done before and to do it again might be a bit more impressive.

"It's going to stand in equal stead as last time, but we can't think about that just yet. We have another important match first and we have to focus on that as a team and a squad."

Giggs confirmed on Monday that Bale and Aaron Ramsey, who has been hampered by a thigh problem, are both ready to start against Hungary.

"I'm ready. I hadn't played in four weeks so it was important to get 60 minutes into my legs and get some match sharpness," Bale added.

"We spoke at the start of the week about trying to get 60 minutes and hopefully being a couple [of goals] up before I came off, so it worked out well, no problems, and I'm ready to go for Tuesday."

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