Ryan Giggs has admitted he would be finished now had he ever elected to leave Manchester United.
Giggs celebrates his 40th birthday today with talk already starting to turn towards the potential for being offered yet another contract extension in the summer.
Should he sign one, it would take his first team career with the Red Devils to 24 years and, injury permitting, allow him to reach the staggering 1,000 game milestone.
His personal records will almost certainly never be beaten — he has, after all, won as many league titles as Arsenal have managed in their entire history. But it all could have been so different had he ever opted to sever ties with the club where he made his name, as fellow Class of ’92 members David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville all did.
“If I’d moved from club to club I’d be finished by now,” he said.
“I’m lucky that I have been at one club, where I am surrounded by good players. I also have a good manager.
“I look after myself and try to train every day in order to make myself available for selection.
“I enjoy it as much as I can and, of course, try to contribute to the team.”
Only once since he made his debut against Everton in 1991 has it appeared possible Giggs would leave.
In the wake of a barren campaign in 2002, which featured a shattering Champions League semi-final defeat to the same Bayer Leverkusen outfit Giggs played such a significant role in destroying on Wednesday, the Welshman’s critics were lining up to take a shot.
Always one of the fittest players at Old Trafford, Giggs’ increasingly delicate hamstrings were starting to cause concern and at one stage he was even booed by his own supporters.
There was talk of a big-money move to Italy and though Giggs has stated before he was never made aware of any interest, it is fair to assume if he had offered any encouragement, there would have been a lengthy queue for his services.
It didn’t take long for Giggs to emerge from his difficulties.
That same 2002-03 season he scored a wonder goal against Juventus in Turin. He also started working those hamstrings with regular yoga sessions, now an accepted method of keeping in shape but at the time something unusual. All this as he was edgingtowards his 30th birthday.
Since then he has won six more Premier League titles, a Champions League and the FA Cup. Giggs has been crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year, been voted the best player of the Premier League’s first two decades, plus scores more individual honours.
“I don’t know what the younger lads think of me,” said Giggs.
“When I was 17 and 18 I thought 31 was ancient. Here I am at 40.
“It can be hard sometimes but I am still enjoying it.
“As long as that is the case I will carry on.”
However, in much the same way as Denis Irwin credits Giggs for the effort put in on his behalf for the length of time he spent at United, so the man he played behind so often is happy to share the praise now.
“It is a pleasure to play alongside someone like Phil Jones,” said Giggs.
“He does my running for me. All I do is try and control it all.”
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