Football - Giggs profile

Running as tirelessly as ever and still creating goals out of nothing, Ryan Giggs is preparing to make his 1,000th professional appearance with only the flecks of grey in his hair hinting at his age.

Reuters
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Ryan Giggs

The 39-year-old will reach the landmark in his next game and is likely to be lining up with players who were still in nappies when he made his debut as a substitute in a 2-0 defeat by Everton on March 2, 1991.

United had not won a league title for nearly a quarter of a century when the slim and graceful Welsh teenager started his nifty runs up the left wing but now he is the most decorated player in English football with 12 Premier League winners' medals.

Manager Alex Ferguson has used every superlative in the book to describe a player who has spent his whole career at the northwest club and on Friday, when announcing Giggs had signed a contract to carry on playing next season, he enthused some more.

"He still retains that wonderful youthfulness in the way he plays, he still has great balance and a change of pace," he told a news conference. "He still has his fitness and he still gets you a goal. He really deserves his new contract."

He has lost some of his pace if not his lean physique and has adapted to a more central role to compensate, still pulling the strings in key games and scoring goals such as last weekend's low finish in a 2-0 win at Queens Park Rangers.

That Giggs, at an age when only goalkeepers can usually entertain the idea of still playing at the top, is still contributing so much to a club who are 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League is the stuff of dreams.

Understated at the best of times, he is more pragmatic in his explanation of his longevity, putting it down to hard work, a strict diet and yoga.

"The yoga has definitely helped me," he said last year. "It helps me train every day because it gives me the flexibility and the strength not only to play the game but to train as well.

"I rarely miss a training session, even (if I do) a little less than the younger players I still go out and train."

The curly mop of hair that made him a pin-up in the 1990s has been replaced by a sensible crop and his public image has been damaged after revelations about his private life but Giggs commands huge respect from his fellow professionals.

Part of a golden generation of United players, including David Beckham and Paul Scholes, who helped them to win an unprecedented treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999, Giggs rarely picks up bookings.

He has completed coaching qualifications that will ensure his involvement in the sport for many years to come and Ferguson hopes he will remain at the club.

"That will happen, that's the plan," the manager said. "We're good at that - we've got several former players installed in the club in different capacities... I think it's important we have people here who have the experience of being a player here."

Giggs has made a club-record 931 appearances, scoring 168 goals, while he has played 64 times for Wales and four times for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics

Whether he reaches his millennium during Saturday's league game at home to Norwich City or in Tuesday's high-profile Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Real Madrid remains to be seen but Ferguson said it would be one of them.

"It's unique in the modern game," he said. "But I think it's more than that - I don't think it will ever be achieved again by anyone given the way that players' contracts are played out nowadays."

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