LONDON, Apr 27 – Manchester United great Ryan Giggs was named here on Sunday as the English Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Player of the Year for the first time despite starting just 12 league games this season.The 35-year-old Welsh midfielder, who has enjoyed nearly two decades of success at Old Traford in a career featuring two Champions League final triumphs, had twice won the Young Player of the Year award but can now add the ultimate mark of esteem from his fellow professionals to his list of prizes.
"It’s right up there, with personal accolades it’s the best to have as it’s voted by your fellow players," Giggs, who could win his 11th league title with United this season, said.
"I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of trophies, I won the young player award twice, but this is the big one."
Giggs has only started a dozen league games this season but has been a squad regular in all competitions, with the award acknowledging the respect he has from opponents.
If he plays against Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday, he will become the first United player to make 800 senior appearances for the club, having broken Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 758 by coming on as substitute in last season’s Chamions League final in Moscow where he scored a penalty in the shoot-out win over English rivals Chelsea.
But the thrill of a major match still gets to Giggs even now.
"It’s an exciting season," he said. "I think it is going to go right to the wire, there’s big game after big game now."
He also paid triubute to United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has guided Giggs’s career since the winger was a teenager.
"The manager has been massive in my career from when I first met him when I was 13," Giggs said.
"That’s over 20 years and he knows me better than anyone and our relationship has been brilliant and just gets better.
"I’ve been so fortunate to have such a great career in so many great teams, it’s not even worth thinking about what it would have been like without the manager," he added.
Giggs, whose current contract expires at the end of next season, said of his future: "As long as I’m getting picked, enjoying it and injury-free, I’ll carry on as long as I can.
"At 35 you can’t look too far into the distance, you just can’t."
Aston Villa winger Ashley Young was named Young Player of the Year, a reward he said for the way in which the Birmingham side, currently fifth in the table, had performed this season.
"It’s a massive achievement for the club and my team-mates around me," Young said. "It’s a great honour and I’m delighted."
The PFA Premier League team of the year has featured six United players and also included Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka as well as Portsmouth and England right-back Glen Johnson.
PFA Premier League team of the year: Edwin van der Sar (Man Utd); Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd), Nemanja Vidic (Man Utd), Patrice Evra (Man Utd); Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Ryan Giggs (Man Utd), Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd); Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Fernando Torres (Liverpool)