Twenty-two years ago last week a 17-year-old named Ryan Giggs made his Manchester United FC debut as a substitute in England's old First Division against Everton FC.
Over two decades on and the wily midfielder, once one of the most feared left-wingers in the game, remains an integral part of Sir Alex Ferguson's plans. On Friday he signed a one-year contract extension that will take him into his 23rd full season as a first-team player at Old Trafford and expire six months after his 40th birthday.
In recognition of this remarkable longevity – his outing in the round of 16 decider against Real Madrid CF was his 1,000th competititive appearance – UEFA.com selects some of Giggs's most significant milestones and celebrated moments of a stellar career which has yielded 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two UEFA Champions League crowns, two English League Cups and a UEFA Super Cup.
5 March 2013, UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg: United 1-2 Real Madrid CF
Having been left out of the squad three days earlier for the Premier League fixture at home to Norwich City FC, Giggs brought up the 1,000-appearance mark against the nine-time European Cup winners. His 134th UEFA Champions League outing ended in defeat as the visitors, trailing to Sergio Ramos's own goal, hit back through Luka Modrić and former United favourite Cristiano Ronaldo.
10 February 2013, Premier League: United 2-0 Everton FC
Giggs is the only man to have scored in each of the 21 Premier League seasons. His first goal of the current campaign, an assured right-footed finish off the upright, set United en route to an important home win. Like buses, Giggs did not have to wait long for another one, sealing a 2-0 victory at Queens Park Rangers FC two weeks later as Sir Alex's table toppers temporarily stretched their lead to 15 points.
14 September 2011, UEFA Champions League group stage: SL Benfica 1-1 United
Giggs registered the Red Devils' first goal of what was ultimately a disappointing 2011/12 European campaign and, in so doing, set a record which stands to this day – aged 37 years and 289 days, he was the oldest player to score in the UEFA Champions League. With the visitors trailing to an Óscar Cardozo strike, Giggs burst onto a pass from Antonio Valencia and unleashed an unstoppable effort high to Artur's left.
January 2011: voted United's greatest player of all time
That the former Wales player topped a poll of supporters in the club magazine and on their official website ahead of such United luminaries as Eric Cantona, George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton – to name but a few – says everything about Giggs's standing at Old Trafford. "When I got told I genuinely couldn't believe it," said Giggs on learning of the accolade. "There have been so many great players here."
21 May 2008, UEFA Champions League final: United v Chelsea FC – breaking Sir Bobby's club record of 758 appearances
Giggs cemented his status as an all-time United great when he replaced another Old Trafford stalwart, Paul Scholes, in the 87th minute of European club football's biggest match. With the score 1-1 after extra time, the match went to penalties, where Giggs calmly struck what proved to be the decisive spot kick before Nicolas Anelka's effort was saved by Edwin van der Sar.
11 May 2008, Premier League: Wigan Athletic FC v United
If not his most eye-catching goal, it makes the cut due to its significance on an afternoon when the title's destination was in the balance. Level on points with Chelsea at kick-off on the final day of term, United knew victory would assure them of their tenth Premier League crown and 17th English championship overall. After Cristiano Ronaldo had eased nerves with a penalty, Wayne Rooney's defence-splitting pass provided Giggs with a simple finish and the crowning moment of United's domestic season; for Giggs, greater acclaim would arrive in Moscow ten days later.
25 February 2003, UEFA Champions League second group stage: Juventus v United
While some may argue that his thunderous strike against the same team six years earlier is just as worthy of inclusion, Giggs's display at the Stadio Delle Alpi gets the nod because of his overall impact on United's 3-0 win. Having already scored one, Giggs launched himself on a run not dissimilar to that mentioned below. Faced with Ciro Ferrara and Paolo Montero, he darted inside – taking both out of the game in the process – before sliding a shot across Gianluigi Buffon into the far corner.
14 April 1999, FA Cup semi-final replay: United v Arsenal FC
United's famed treble of 1998/99, and what is widely regarded as the best goal of Giggs's illustrious career, would never have happened had Peter Schmeichel not repelled Dennis Bergkamp's 92nd-minute penalty. Now in extra time as a result, with the score 1-1, Giggs collected Patrick Vieira's misplaced pass and embarked on a mazy run towards goal. With the France midfielder closing fast, Giggs danced beyond Vieira and in between Lee Dixon and Martin Keown before rifling left-footed into the roof of David Seaman's net.
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