Giggs at 40: The Highs and Highs of Ryan Giggs' Manchester United Career

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Giggs at 40: The Highs and Highs of Ryan Giggs' Manchester United Career
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Ryan Giggs might only get the recognition he deserves long after he's gone.

It seems strange to suggest that a footballer who's won everything and earned every superlative might be under-appreciated in his own time. But it's more a comment on his wonderful career than any slight on his commentators.

He's played for Manchester United 953 times, more than George Best (13th on the club's all-time list) and Bryan Robson (15th on the list) combined. He's won 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups, the Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the World Club Cup. The list goes on and on.

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He won the PFA Young Player of the Year award twice and the main award once. He was voted into the team of the year by his fellow professionals six times, in 1993, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2009.

It's a CV that defies belief, even for those who have seen him compile it with their own eyes. Future football fans will have to double check their fathers haven't been telling white lies about the player history will remember as 'Giggsy'.

They'll talk about that goal against Tottenham in 1992, the anticipation, the acceleration and the cool finish.

They'll talk about that goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final in 1999. The wayward pass from Patrick Vieira. The trail of Arsenal defenders, strewn on the Villa Park turf. The shot into the roof of David Seaman's net. The celebration and the impossibly hairy chest.

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They perhaps won't talk about how Giggs reinvented himself when his days as a flying winger started to come to an end, or how he looked after himself in such a way that meant he was still part of the United squad on his 40th birthday.

Both are worthy of note.

Because there was a time when Giggs' career looked like it might end with the snap of a hamstring. He featured in only 26 league games in the 1996-97 season and just 24 in 1998-99. 

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He made his debut in an era when managers' choice of pre-season training was cross-country running. More than 20 years later, he's using yoga to squeeze every last minute of football out of his body.

What's perhaps most incredible is that he's not hanging around at United like the pub drunk who doesn't know when to call it a night. Like Gary Neville and Paul Scholes before him, he has been afforded the privilege of choosing when his career ends but even after reaching the 40-year-old milestone, he's still contributing.

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On Sunday, with United drawing 2-2 at Cardiff, Giggs collected the ball in midfield and lofted a perfectly-weighted pass towards Wayne Rooney.

It should have set up a last-minute winner and only Rooney's indecision prevented it from happening. A video of Robin van Persie's late equaliser against West Ham in the FA Cup in January will show you what should have happened. It was Giggs' pass that day, too.

At a club that can boast Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Best, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo among its heroes, Giggs has marked himself out as a legend.

His story has everything. Joining the club as a youngster from bitter rivals Manchester City. Captaining the famous Class of 92 to the FA Youth Cup, a trophy that has taken on particular significance at United thanks to the exploits of the Busby Babes. A first team debut as a teenager and a glittering career laden with trophy after trophy. It's all there.

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He's gone on for so long—Phil Jones wasn't even born when Giggs made his first team debut—that the next chapter of his life has already started before the last one has ended. 

In the summer he combined his playing duties with a coaching role meaning his association with United won't end when he finally hangs up his boots. There's no hint yet about when that might be.

Until then, there's still a chance for a few more United fans—any football fans, really—to see him play and tell future generations they were there.

I saw Pele. I saw Maradona. I saw Zidane. Well.....I saw Giggs. 

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