FAN NEWS & BLOGS

25/08/2009 09:41, Report by Ben Hibbs
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United's unstoppable force

There's every chance Ryan Giggs will play an important role against Arsenal on Saturday. He was given the day off for the trip to Wigan after his unrewarded efforts against Burnley in midweek. It's another sign of Sir Alex using the wise wisely.

Life at Old Trafford without Ryan Giggs in the first-team is almost unthinkable. But in the summer you'd perhaps been forgiven for thinking this was his victory. One last hurrah. After all, he's nearly 36 and has clocked up a lot of miles over 20 years as a professional. But judging by his displays against Chelsea, Birmingham and Burnley, I don't think that's the case.

It's incredible to think that Giggs had a testimonial eight years ago this month - a 4-3 defeat to Celtic in August 2001. It's usually an indicator of a career nearing its end. It was nothing of the sort.

Giggs is in his 20th season as a United first-teamer - making his debut against Everton at the end of the 1990/91 campaign in the old First Division (!) - and he continues to push the boundaries of his evergreen talents.

He races past appearance landmarks effortlessly, and his still-energetic displays consistently belie his age. That's partly because he's the consummate pro. He said recently he gave up the drink years ago, took to eating fish in an ultra healthy diet and still does yoga - which solved his previous susceptibility to muscle pulls, hamstring strains in particular. He has absolute respect for his physical condition.

At 35, he's United's oldest outfield player. His contract runs until the end of the season, but I think he can easily play on for another year after that, until summer 2011, at which point he'll be just a few months shy of his 38th birthday.

The longer Giggs carries on, of course, the more time he'll require to recover between games, but his influence is invaluable no matter how sparingly used. His input is especially needed as Sir Alex continues to blood up-and-coming young players.

His popularity and infuence in the dressing room is essential. Alongside fellow first-team patriarchs Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, Ryan sets the tone for standards expected at United, on and off the pitch.

To the likes of Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson, Rafael, Fabio and the emerging crop now in the youth and Reserve sides, the benefits of having Giggs

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