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Ryan not cryin' at turning 40

Updated: 2013-11-29 07:47
By Agence France-Presse in London ( China Daily)

Manchester United's all-time appearance leader still happy to contribute - thanks partly to yoga

With a vintage cameo at Cardiff City last weekend, Ryan Giggs demonstrated he remains an integral player for Manchester United despite the arrival of his 40th birthday on Friday.

Playing in the city of his birth, the Welshman rose from the bench in the 73rd minute and immediately caught the eye with a first-time through ball for Danny Welbeck, who shot over.

 Ryan not cryin' at turning 40

Flanked by Manchester United teammates, Ryan Giggs applauds supporters after Wednesday's 5-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in their Champions League Group A match in Leverkusen, Germany. Martin Meissner / Associated Press

It was also Giggs who led United's vain charge for a winning goal after Cardiff's Kim Bo-kyung made it 2-2 in stoppage time, lofting a delicately weighted 50-yard pass into the path of Wayne Rooney, only for the United striker to botch the opportunity by electing to pass.

Alex Ferguson may have stepped down as manager after 26 long, glorious years and United may have fallen off the pace under his successor, David Moyes, but the ageless Giggs rolls on regardless.

"The best thing is to say he doesn't play like he's 40 and he doesn't look like he's 40," Moyes said recently.

"He is an outstanding player and it is a privilege to be working with him on my staff, but also to have him as a player.

"I've seen something different since I've come here - just how good he is, close up - and it is incredible."

Giggs is starting to cast an eye towards the future, having joined United's coaching staff following Moyes's arrival from Everton. He also recently opened a London restaurant with former teammate Gary Neville.

However, although his current United contract is due to expire in June, he said he has had no thoughts about turning the page on his playing career.

Asked by Neville during a recent television interview whether the approach of his fifth decade had brought retirement into sharper focus, he said: "I've never been guided really by the age.

"It's just about how I felt, if I'm contributing, if I'm still getting picked, still enjoying it. That's the sort of markers that I look for and all those things I feel like I'm doing.

"I could probably contribute a little bit more, but hopefully that will come as the season goes on. But no, just because I've turned 40 doesn't mean that's it.

"If I felt like that, then I might as well just pack it in now, but I still feel good and I'm still enjoying it."

Giggs is used sparingly these days and has played in only five of United's 12 league games this season, but he is already certain to leave a historic legacy.

He is United's record appearance-maker with 953 games and counting, and with 13 league titles, two Champions League trophies, four FA Cups and three League Cups to his name - as well as a clutch of other prizes - he is the most decorated footballer in the history of the English game.

A devilish tormentor of opposition rightbacks when he blazed onto the scene as a jet-heeled winger in the early-1990s, Giggs has refined his game in recent years and now operates more often than not as an elegant midfield playmaker.

As a youngster, he 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 his latter 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."

Giggs' famed hunger for success is unlikely to diminish in the months ahead, particularly with United seven points behind leader Arsenal in the Premier League.

He will also be eager to maintain a run of scoring in consecutive league seasons that extends all the way back to 1991 - before some of his current teammates were born.

(China Daily 11/29/2013 page24)

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