Giggs at 40

cakeThis morning, Ryan Giggs insinuated that he may just skip training with Manchester United  to avoid the inevitable pranks awaiting him on his 40th birthday.

United legend Giggs celebrates the milestone on Friday, and is in no doubt his team-mates will have some practical jokes planned at the club’s training ground to mark the occasion.

“I’m not coming in on Friday,” said Giggs, with a wry smile. “I’m going to stay in bed, I think, just in case!”

Asked whether he would be glad when his birthday is over, given all the hype and interest surrounding him turning 40, Giggs said: “Yeah, I will.

“It’s not really a big milestone for me. Obviously, it is, but I try not to think about it as much and I don’t think about it, if I’m honest, until guys like you remind me!”

Yet there is no getting away from the magnitude of Giggs’ achievement in becoming only the fourth outfield player – and seventh in total – to grace the Premier League at 40, following Kevin ­Phillips, Teddy Sheringham, Gordon Strachan, Brad Friedel, Mark Schwarzer and Mike Pollitt.

None, however, has enjoyed the sustained success of Giggs, the most decorated player in English football and in the history of the Old Trafford giants, whose remarkable story could include several more chapters.

After 953 appearances for United and 168 goals, Giggs provided a timely reminder of his enduring value with a midfield masterclass in the 5-0 ­Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

His appearances may be rationed now, but the only clue to Giggs’ age are the flecks of grey around his temple, the mop of raven hair long since gone, now ­thinning on top and replaced by a sensible cropped style, befitting a man of middle-aged years.

Yet, to look at Giggs play, almost 23 years after he first pulled on a United shirt as a wiry and raw 17-year-old, you would not think he is 40, for he plays with the verve, vigour and guile of a man at least 10 years younger.

Indeed, such was his influence in United’s thumping win over Bayer Leverkusen, in which he played the full 90 minutes, one member of the German side asked Wayne Rooney just how the veteran midfielder kept on producing such remarkable levels of ­performance.

Rooney said: “Ryan was fantastic. He’s done it for years and I’ve run out of things to say about him. During the game, actually, their centre-half was asking, ‘How is he still playing at that age?’

“It’s great to see, his ­composure on the ball is fantastic. I don’t know how he’s still doing it. I certainly won’t be playing at that age, that’s for sure!”

To put his longevity into context, team-mates Phil Jones, Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha were not even BORN when Giggs made his United debut, while goalkeeper David de Gea, defender Rafael and forward Danny Welbeck were all in nappies.

Here’s another one: Giggs has played with 150 different team-mates during his time at United.

For Giggs, the buzz of playing is what keeps him going, long after the other five members of United’s famed Class of ’92 – David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary and Phil Neville – have hung up their boots.

Standing in the bowels of Leverkusen’s BayArena, Giggs said he will carry on playing as long as he is enjoying it and feels he can make a ­valuable contribution to United.

If Wednesday’s midfield masterclass is anything to go by, talk of Giggs retiring can be put on hold for the time being.

“Yeah, I’m enjoying it – it helps having legs to help,” said Giggs, in reference to the younger players around him.

“You’ve got Phil Jones in midfield and the front four were brilliant against Leverkusen, a real handful – that helps.

“So, yeah, I’m enjoying it, but I tend to enjoy it more in December and January, when all the games come thick and fast and I can get into a rhythm.

“I’m enjoying it – that’s the main thing. Obviously, you’ve got to work hard during the week, put in the performances in training and, hopefully, you get picked.

“And, when you are picked, it’s just like when you’re younger, really – you’ve got to take your chance.”

With 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League triumphs, four FA Cups, four League Cups, the FIFA Club World Cup, Intercontinental Cup and UEFA Super Cup, Giggs has won it all during his career.

But, despite that remarkable record, he is still driven by a hunger to win more, with the carrot of a third Champions League success a clear motivation.

Asked whether the current United team has what it takes to win what would be the club’s fourth European Cup, Giggs said: “If we play like we did against Leverkusen, we can.

“If we can put on performances like this, then who knows? We can go a very long way.

“It’s a great competition – you’re playing against the best in Europe. It’s a ­competition in which you’ve got to perform – otherwise you won’t get anywhere in it.”

-Mirror.co.uk-

Adeyemi Adesanya

Sports Business Consultant and Football Intermediary; Risk Management & Due Diligence Consultant; Freelance Football writer & Pundit on Radio & TV and Man.Utd Fan

http://www.halftimeng.com

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