By Adrian Clarke
Manchester United FC winger Ryan Giggs may have turned 30 last Saturday, but the Welsh international says he is nowhere near ready to start calling time on his glittering trophy-laden career.
After coming through the youth ranks at Old Trafford, Giggs made his first-team debut as a raw 17-year-old against Everton FC in March 1991. And in the 12 years that have elapsed since that notable day, the skilful wide man has been collecting medals and accolades with frightening regularity, making him one of the most recognisable footballers in Europe over the past decade.
Pipe and slippers
But, now that Giggs is one of the elder statesmen in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad, does he feel as if his playing days are drawing to an end? "
I'm certainly not ready for the pipe and slippers yet," Giggs told uefa.com. "Physically I feel great, especially as I seem to have put all my hamstring problems behind me, I still love playing and I'm still as desperate to win things as I was a decade ago. I haven't got a crystal ball and I don't know how long I will be able to play for, but the way I feel now I want go on playing for as long as possible."
In the past couple of years Sir Alex has lowered the average age of his squad dramatically. He has let the likes of Denis Irwin, Laurent Blanc, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham move on, and replaced them with younger talent like Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Forlán.
That now puts Giggs - who is still regarded by many as a young player himself - as the third eldest member of United's new-look squad. A fact that seems remarkable even to the man himself. "There used to be a lot more thirtysomethings in the United squad but it's only me, Roy [Keane] and Ole [Gunnar Solskjær] these days and there are more and more younger faces. I'm not ready to be pensioned off just yet but it does make you realise you're getting older.
It's a relief to get my birthday out of the way because I've been getting that much stick from the lads in the week about being a pensioner. Along with Roy, I suppose I'm the elder statesman of the squad now, although I'm definitely not getting the respect from the youngsters a statesman is supposed to!"
The Welsh star has amassed an incredible eight Premiership winner's medals, together with three in the FA Cup and one taste of UEFA Champions League triumph in 1999 but he is humble enough to admit that he has been blessed with a lot of good luck.
"I never for a second believed that my career would have turned out as it did and how lucky I would have been," Giggs said. "I knew I was signing for a huge club with high expectations when I came to Old Trafford but I had no idea we would be so successful and I would be so involved. I don't think anyone could have predicted that 12 years ago.
"It's not false modesty but I really have been incredibly lucky in terms of working for such a great manager and the quality of players who have been at the club during my career. I like to think I've played my part but it is teams not individuals who win silverware and United have had a succession of great teams over the years."
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