LONDON, England, March 1 – Ryan Giggs is poised to reach yet another milestone in his extraordinary career this weekend as he stands to make his 1,000th appearance in senior football.
The indefatigable Welshman took his tally of appearances to 999 last weekend with a goal-scoring turn in a 2-0 win at Queens Park Rangers that helped Manchester United preserve their 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
That advantage seems destined to turn into a 13th English league title for Giggs, which would solidify his place as the most decorated footballer in the English game.
No man can compete with his 12 league titles and he has also amassed two Champions League trophies, four FA Cup titles and three League Cup winners’ medals, as well as a clutch of other prizes, in his 22-year Old Trafford career.
A willowy winger when he blazed onto the scene in the early-1990s, Giggs has refined his game in recent years and now operates more often than not as an elegant midfield playmaker.
The Welshman will turn 40 in November but team-mate Rafael da Silva says his team-mates continue to be astonished by his ability.
“He is an unbelievable player,” Rafael said.
“Every game you see him, he works hard, scores, makes assists. It is getting boring. He is just such a good player.
“He is the same in training; he just loves to play the game. He is one of the top players that I have played with. He gives us experience, confidence, and when you are feeling bad he comes and helps you, especially young players.”
Giggs has demonstrated superb form in recent weeks, after a difficult early-season spell that included a galling half-time substitution in a 3-2 loss at home to Tottenham Hotspur in September.
He has now scored three goals in his last five appearances in all competitions.
His opening goal in the 4-1 win over Fulham in the FA Cup came a staggering 20 years after his first goal in the competition, while he has now scored in a remarkable 23 consecutive top-flight seasons.
Although no longer able to race through the gears as he did in his younger days, Giggs still possesses an eye for the spectacular and came close to scoring with an exquisite chip that hit the crossbar against QPR.
United manager Alex Ferguson ran out of original ways to describe his protege long ago.
“I think the superlatives have all been used up,” Ferguson said last month.
“I don’t think he needs any himself. His legacy lives on. He is just a fantastic human being.”
As a youngster, Giggs was dogged by hamstring injuries, but he attributes his longevity to the discovery of yoga techniques that have helped him steer clear of the treatment tables in recent years.
“The yoga has definitely helped me,” he told La Gazetta dello Sport 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.
“You have to change the way of thinking. I was a quick player when I was younger, now I am not so quick.
“You use your experience, your intelligence on the pitch, to adapt your game and change your game, as I have done.”
His 999 appearances include 931 games for United, 64 for Wales and four for the British Olympic men’s football team at last year’s London Games.
It seems unlikely that he will ever cross the 1,000-game threshold for United, but Saturday’s home game with Norwich City could provide another opportunity for the club to salute one of British football’s true greats.