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. “He regenerates his youth all the time by being open-minded. When I worked with him, he always allowed me to show him different things that I thought might help him. He would consider anything.
“Everyone knows he does yoga. He did boxing and weightlifting too and has tried all sorts – he even gave trampolining a go when he was 34 or 35 – but one example still sticks with me. A few years ago, Ryan wasn’t happy with his crossing and he wanted to perfect it, but didn’t know why he couldn’t. By chance, I noticed that he wrote right-handed, and it didn’t look right, so we chatted and I told him to spend more time working with his left hand to create a balance, because the right-hand side of your brain affects the left-hand side of your body, and vice-versa.
“We spent about a month playing left handed darts, table tennis – he was beating me with his left hand in about a minute – and it appeared more natural to him. From there we moved into the sports hall at Carrington to practice his crossing – he’d run along and chip the ball in at a gym ball that I was throwing up in the air. By the end, he was hitting the gym ball nine out of ten times – others tried and nobody could match him. Ryan would do virtually anything to get those extra parts of a percent to make himself better.”
While still honing the staples of his wingplay, Giggs also diversified himself positionally. When Rene Meulensteen – now first team coach, but originally United’s first skills coach – arrived in Sir Alex Ferguson’s