Press Association Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has labelled birthday boy Ryan Giggs the role model all his team-mates look up to. It cannot be easy, especially with Michael Carrick on the sidelines and neither Marouane Fellaini nor Tom Cleverley able to match Giggs’ influence in central midfield. Leverkusen boss Sami Hyypia doubtless wishes Moyes had elected to save Giggs’ legs in readiness for Sunday’s trip to Tottenham given he was responsible for an overall United performance the Finn accepted was far too good for his own side. “We really punished them,” said Smalling. “Bayern Munich were the only team to take points off them at their ground in the league this season, which speaks for itself. “But we put them to the sword. “Once we got two goals ahead you could see their heads drop. “They knew they were going to be well beaten because we were not going to let that lead slip.” Only once in their entire history have United won an away game in Europe by a greater margin. That 6-0 win in 1957 was at the expense of Irish part-timers Shamrock Rovers, not the team presently second in the Bundesliga/ Remarkably, Leverkusen could still join United in the knockout stages providing Shakhtar Donetsk do not leave Old Trafford with a victory that would deprive Moyes’ side of top spot in Group A when the sides meet in a fortnight. Not even Sir Alex Ferguson won a European away fixture by five goals. The best he could manage was a 6-2 success against Brondby in Copenhagen during the group stage of the 1999 Treble winning campaign. It could, therefore, turn out to be a significant evening for Moyes, who has still not convinced everyone he is the right man to replace Ferguson. Smalling can look back on the evening with satisfaction too. Criticised by Moyes for conceding the injury-time free-kick from which Cardiff got their shock equaliser on Sunday, the former Fulham man was a far more confident presence at right-back. He even chipped in with a goal, finishing off from close range at the far post, from a cross provided by Rooney. “We have been threatening to do that all season,” he said. “There have been a few times when we have gone ahead in games and not got the second that would allow us to kick on to make ourselves a bit more comfortable. “I am quite pleased to get on the scoresheet too. “I have been getting closer and closer over the last few games, although my goal was probably the easiest chance I will ever have. “We are starting to look a real threat from set pieces, which is important because the manager wants us to chip in. “We have a few players who can be dangerous in those areas and with the delivery Rooney and Giggs were putting in, we were due.” Giggs did not score on Wednesday night. Nor, indeed, could he claim more than one direct assist given Wayne Rooney was responsible for the final pass for the first four United goals. His experience still shone through as he controlled the game at the pace he wished, always seeming to make the right pass. “Ryan is a role model for us all,” said Smalling. “He is a cool head in the middle. “Despite his age, even in the 90th minute he was still taking on three or four players. “It is terrific to see such a legend playing amongst us. “His pass for Nani’s goal at the end just sums him up. He has that incredible vision. He is terrific and an example to everyone.” The biggest issue Moyes has with Giggs right now is when to pick him and when to give him the rest so obviously required. Giggs celebrates his 40th birthday on Friday with United manager David Moyes believing the Welshman is still improving. Certainly his performance in Wednesday night’s 5-0 Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen suggests Giggs still has plenty to offer and, should he so wish, he worthy of yet another contract extension at the end of the season.
Tipp FM will bring you live updates from both of today’s semi-finals at Semple Stadium.First up at two o’ clock is the meeting of Thurles Sarsfields and Templederry Kenyons.That’s then followed at 3:30 by the clash of the champions Loughmore-Castleiney and Mullinahone. In the rest of today’s games, Toomevara play Roscrea in a North U21 A Hurling tie, with throw-in at Moneygall set for 11:30.At 12:00 in Golden Rosegreen and Solohead contest the West Junior B Hurling Group 1 Final, while, at the same time in Group 2 of the West’s U21 B Hurling Knockavilla Kickhams meet Lattin Cullen Gaels in Bansha.Turning to the South and it’s Moyle Rovers versus Ballybacon Grange in Clonmel in Group 2 of the South U21 B Hurling.The other game from that competition also throws in at 12; that’s Grangemockler Davins against Anner Gaels in Monroe.And Cloughjordan is the venue at 3 for the North U21 A Hurling clash of Burgess and Kildangan.Elsewhere, there’s Tipperary interest in today’s Munster Club Hurling Quarter-Final at Walsh Park where Ballygunner take on Cratloe. The Premier County’s club champions will face the winner of that game in the semis.Throw-in there is at 2:30.
2020 has not brought Benzema goals, at least for now. The French striker, the main white scorer resource, is going through his first drought in a season in which he was demonstrating the regularity that was almost always missed during his ten previous seasons in the team: he has not seen a door since December 15, when he scored in the last breath the draw of Madrid against Valencia in Mestalla (1-1) in LaLiga. He did not participate in the Spanish Super Cup played in Arabia by a bruise on his left leg, but still enjoyed enough opportunities in these 41 days without seeing goal. In Salamanca, much of the encounter was shy, but he left two good chances at the end of his contest, without success. He will look for that guy tomorrow in Valladolid, where he will lead the white attack again, probably with Rodrygo. An opponent against whom he has a good record: five goals in eight games against the Spaniards. Better yet in Zorrilla, where he has seen the door three times in three duels, two in the win by 1-4 last year, in which it was the last game of Santiago Solari in front of Madrid; the next day the return of Zidane became official. He has played five games and 364 minutes since his last target: 90 ’against Barcelona, 90’ against Athletic, 81 ’in Getafe, 28’ against Sevilla and 75 ’in Salamanca against Unionistas. There are 364 minutes in which he has shot 14 times, eight of them between the three sticks; a ratio of auctions in those five games of 2.8 per game (against Sevilla, he did not try once), below the 3.33 that has been averaging this course. The generation of opportunities is not Benzema’s problem: He is the player who has made the most shots both in total (66) and between clubs (35). Messi already sees Benzema in the rearview mirrorThe drought that Benzema is going through is a new phenomenon for Madrid this season: before it, it had not chained more than one match without scoring in LaLiga (in September it was two days, but did not dispute one of them). Not surprisingly, he has made 16 of the 58 goals of Real Madrid this course, almost 28%; what whites are missing is a squire in the attack that accompanies Benzema. Rodrygo has six goals, but has not scored since December 11 (in Bruges) and in LaLiga, since October 30; Bale has barely made three goals, Vinicius two, Jovic (with whom the minutes are played) one …That white dependence on the goals of the French took him to the top of the provisional classification of Pichichi during the first leg of the course: he made 12 goals in his first 16 league games. But Messi, who missed five of the first seven days due to injury, already looks at him in the rearview mirror: the Argentine has 14 goals, two more than Benzema. And with a much smaller participation: the culé scores a goal in LaLiga every 90 minutes; Benzema has fallen to 133 ’, or what is the same, you need a match and a half to score a goal.With his numbers at the beginning of the season, Benzema planned to sign his best League since he is in Madrid; the record has it set in the 24 goals he scored in 2015-16, at the orders of Benítez first and Zidane later. It is time to fix it, but right now it plans to stay in 23 targets. Although Madrid does not care about the drought of its ‘nine’, which enjoys all the confidence of Zidane: The renewal is already underway with him until 2022. The agreement will be announced at the end of this course.Near the 500 clubIn Salamanca, Benzema played his 491 game with the Real Madrid shirt; He is the 15th player with the most matches played in white and approaches the club of the 500 matches, which today has only 12 members, of which only Roberto Carlos is a foreigner (although Marcelo, with 499, is at the gates to enter) He has won 335 duels (68%) and has scored 238 goals.