When Ryan Giggs scored Manchester United’s last penalty in Moscow, moments before Nicolas Anelka’s penalty was saved by Edwin Van der Sar, there was speculation over whether that would be last game for the club. He had broken Sir Bobby Charlton’s all time appearance record when coming off the bench to replace Paul Scholes.
What a dream career he would have had, winning more titles than any other player in England and winning the Champions League with the last kick of the ball. If life was a film, that might have been the way his career ended. As it is, he has carried on playing for another four seasons, winning another two titles and playing in another two European Cup finals.
Tonight, Giggs is set to make his 900th appearance for the club and Sir Alex Ferguson has sung his praises.
“It’s amazing,” admitted Sir Alex. “When we went to Moscow he beat Bobby Charlton’s record. It’s phenomenal and he keeps defying his age. His performance level now is as it was then. Nothing’s changed. I think Ryan’s maturity and the fact we’ve changed his position has given a new aspect to his game. We remember him running up and down the touchline, running at full-backs. From my point of view, and not everyone will agree with me, is that being in the Premier League for as long as he has and achieved what he has, I don’t think anybody else will ever do it.”
Giggs has been compared to Paolo Maldini who made 902 appearances for AC Milan over 25 years. Ferguson thinks that Giggs’ achievement is greater though, given he has spent the majority of his career on the wing.
“Maldini was a defender,” Ferguson said. “And, although in his case, he did a lot of running as a full-back, wide players have more work to do than full-backs. That’s the distinction between the two, although Maldini was obviously a magnificent player.”