By Adrian Clarke
Manchester United FC's original 'boy wonder' Ryan Giggs thought he'd seen everything in his illustrious 15-year long career, but the winger admits even he was left flabbergasted by Wayne Rooney's sensational debut hat-trick for the club in their 6-2 UEFA Champions League win against Turkish side Fenerbahçe SK.
Rooney joined United in a €29.6m move from Everton FC in August whilst recovering from a broken foot he suffered in England's UEFA EURO 2004™ quarter-final defeat by Portugal. But the 18-year-old displayed no signs of rustiness on Tuesday night in an outstanding individual performance, which confirmed his status as the most exciting talent to emerge at United since Giggs burst on to the big stage as a teenager in 1991.
"To score a hat-trick in your first match for Manchester United is a very special feat, but Wayne's display was even more unbelievable because of the circumstances," Giggs told uefa.com. "He's only 18, it was his first taste of the Champions League, and he hadn't played a single match for more than three months. It's the sort of start you can normally only dream about.
"Wayne's performance was outstanding but it was his sharpness that impressed me most," he continued. "
The first game back after a long injury lay-off is normally hard work for players, but he made it look embarrassingly easy. I was shocked that he was able to complete the whole 90 minutes, so the quality of his performance has to rank as nothing short of brilliant."
Rooney's precocious talent has drawn obvious comparisons with Giggs, who was himself labelled a superstar at the age of 18. Although different in style, the young Giggs shared Rooney's ability to compete at the very highest level without any sign of nerves. So, has United's wonderkid asked his senior team-mate for any advice in coping with life in the spotlight?
"He hasn't asked me for any advice yet but I was exactly the same when I was 18," admitted Giggs. "When you're young, it's not always easy to approach the older players asking for tips. What I did - and what Wayne is probably doing right now - is observe the things senior players did. I used to watch how Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona conducted themselves on and off the pitch and learn from them in that way. I'm sure that Wayne will learn a lot from the rest of the players in the United dressing room."
Giggs will come face to face with Rooney when Wales take on England next Saturday in a crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier at United's Old Trafford home. And the Wales star admits his side will have their hands full to keep Sven-Göran Eriksson's star-studded team at bay.
"England are clear favourites for the group and they will be expected to beat us on Saturday," he said. "We know we will have to perform at our very best to get anything out of the game. But I think it will be played out like a derby and that could help us. The form book often goes out of the window in derbies.
"It will be strange playing against some great friends like Gary Neville and David Beckham who I've known for more than 15 years but for the 90 minutes next Saturday no quarter will be given," Giggs continued. "It will be a special match for me, but I will only have fond memories of it if we win."
Ryan Giggs's personal website is at www.icons.com
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