Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs admits he could never have imagined he would one day reach an incredible 1,000 senior games.
After failing to make the squad for Saturday’s Premier League win over Norwich, manager Alex Ferguson has promised Giggs he will reach another impressive milestone at Old Trafford tomorrow.
A Champions League encounter with Real Madrid is a fitting way for Giggs to make such a landmark appearance, although Ferguson is refusing to say whether the veteran Welshman will start or be introduced from the bench.
“I am obviously proud of playing that many games,” said Giggs, whose 931 United appearances are supplemented by 64 for Wales and four for the Great Britain Olympic team.
“You set out different goals at the start of your career. First you want to get in the team, then stay in it. Then you want to win things.
“You never think you are going to get to 1,000 games. I have worked hard and had a lot of things go for me; the continuity of the manager and playing with good players.
“And as I have got older, I have taken more things in. For instance, I remember the second Champions League win in 2008 more than 1999. You enjoy things like that and dwell on them a lot more.”
Giggs’ performances this season have already been rewarded with a one-year contract extension that will take him past his 40th birthday.
His career has attracted tributes in the past week from a host of luminaries, including FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Even in the heat of battle at the Bernabeu three weeks ago, Giggs’ introduction was greeted with a standing ovation from the home supporters, who recognised a career that transcends normal boundaries.
“It was strange,” said Giggs. “As I was going on to the pitch, my concentration was fully on doing well for the team and trying to make an impact.
“I did recognise what happened but I only really thought about it afterwards. I thank the Madrid fans for the welcome they did give me. It was something special.”