Four years have passed since journalists and statistical devotees were cautiously calculating whether or not Ryan Giggs would be able to pass Sir Bobby Charlton’s longstanding club record of 758 United appearances. He did, of course, in Moscow, on a gloriously romantic, rain-sodden night worthy of the sappiest sepia – and promptly used that landmark as a launchpad, rather than a curtain call. A year on Giggs was named PFA Player of the Year and BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and Premier League titles in 2008/09 and 2010/11 have taken his personal haul of league winner’s medals to a round dozen.
Eight days after Giggs broke Sir Bobby’s record, the latter was immortalised in bronze as part of the ‘United Trinity’ statue on the Old Trafford forecourt. This season, Giggs has passed the combined 874 appearances racked up by the Trinity’s other members – Denis Law and George Best – with his influence showing no sign of waning over time.
The 38-year-old marked his 900th appearance for the Reds, at Carrow Road last month, in a fashion that showcased all his virtues. After an hour on the left wing, Giggs moved into a central, support-striker role and, when Norwich equalised, he snatched the baton. After creating two openings that were spurned, the Welshman anticipated Ashley Young’s stoppage-time cross perfectly, turning one point into three and fuelling United’s title charge.
Giggs’s longevity has allowed him time to master the founding principles of the game – intelligence, awareness, resilience, movement, touch and vision. Balancing mental and physical strength, he expresses himself with sophistication and incisiveness; even approaching his fifth decade, the Welshman remains a key component in United’s armoury.