“His flexibility has improved with age,” says assistant manager Mike Phelan. “He can play in numerous positions now and adapt into those that require more maturity. When he was younger, he got away with a lot of things because he was young and he could make mistakes. He was seen as a wide player with great dribbling skills and pace and quality on the ball, whereas now he’s brought all those to the fore in different positions. Maturity gives you that.
“In his early career he was surrounded by quality which allowed him to be young, effervescent and show his real qualities, which were his skills. That was accepted by the team, the fans and the club and the excitement he produced when he was young was because he was young, he was capable of making mistakes and he was allowed to make them in order to develop.”
There are complexities to being a 39-year-old footballer at the highest level, so being immersed in consistency has helped. Giggs has represented one club under one manager for almost a quarter of a century – an obvious boon. So too are the Welshman’s physical attributes: a light, slender, aerodynamic frame built to last and resist the ravages of time.
According to those who have worked with Giggs, the secret to his perpetual evolution – and his success over that time period - has been cerebral. It seems even age can be duped by intelligence. “He’s an incredibly open-minded athlete,” says Mike Clegg, who worked with Giggs for over 11 years as United’s former strength and conditioning coach.