Ryan Giggs' brilliance and longevity explained from five unique, insightful perspectives...
Logic-defying longevity - by Gary Neville
What Ryan has achieved will go down in the history of sport, not just football. He's a fantastic sportsman and will be mentioned whenever great sportspeople are talked about. He's defied logic in a changing environment when it comes to the physical aspects of football and has adapted his game through the decades. To play in the position he has for so long is incredible. A goalkeeper, full-back, centre-back, maybe a midfielder could do it, but for a winger to play until they're 40 is almost unheard of. You're into the Stanley Matthews bracket. Matthews played into his 50s, but this is a different era. For Ryan to do what he has done is the equivalent of Matthews' achievement. Ryan is a phenomenon.
What drives him on is his inner desire to continue his love for playing football. He has the physique to move with the times and has inner strength and a great physical capacity. This club is a big factor too. It's a special place and if he'd been at any other club it may not have happened. I don't see why he shouldn't continue next season - he still contributes large amounts to the team. A big thing about Ryan is he has retained a humility. He hasn't changed. He's still the same as he was when I first met him. He doesn't speak nearly as much as me, but he's become a real leader and has a big impact in the dressing room. His appetite to train well and work hard every day means others look up to him and learn.
A cool, calming influence - by Rio Ferdinand
More than anything he is a calming influence in the dressing room. He’s not one to shout and bawl, but when he does speak up he gives good information and people take notice. In the dressing room, especially in the role he is in now, you will see him talking to players, especially the wide players. If he sees something in training, he’ll pull people aside and say, ‘you could be doing this to improve your game’. I think it’s important. He’s a cool guy, he’s not aloof at all. He’s not the big-I-am. He’s always there if you need to lean on him or ask for advice. He’s been through every single situation that can be thrown at you as a player, so with someone of that experience you have to use that as players and as a club. That’s what the players here and United as a whole have done.
You can’t help but be in awe of what he has done in the game. I think to myself, ‘could I play for Manchester United in five years’ time?’ It’s not going to happen. I know what my body is like and I know how hard physically it is to do that. If your body is not up to it then you're not going to do it. Genetically you have to be made the right way to play at that age, but you also have to work at things on and off the pitch to make it work. Yoga, and things like that, all help.
A unique athlete - by Tony Strudwick, head of fitness & conditioning
Every now and again an athlete pushes the boundaries in his sport and, for me, Ryan has done that in football. There are a number of reasons for that. Genetically he's very gifted; his light frame has allowed him to play on this long, but aside from that he has incredible resilience physically and mentally. If you asked for one standout feature it would be his mental resilience. To still be in this sport after over 20 years, playing at the top of your game, is astonishing. It takes an extremely high level of professionalism, dedication and sacrifice and he deserves great credit for that.
Aside from being a unique athletic specimen, Ryan has always had that hunger for success. Sir Alex used to say each year you have to pick yourself up, go again and be hungry to achieve more. Ryan is a shining example of that. Year on year he comes back more determined than ever. Even now, at 40, he still trains at the same level as the other players, albeit with a slightly tailored programme. But he'd be the first to say he wants to do more. It's more about us managing him than him managing himself because he always wants to do more! He's a great person with real humility - it's been an absolute pleasure to work with him for six-and-a-half years. You want people like Ryan in your dressing room; always keen to drive standards up. We don't see him as a 40-year-old, we see him as an experienced player who does a great job for this football club.
The player and the coach - by Phil Neville
I think he's enjoying the coaching. I'd say 90 percent of his work is still as a player and I've got to say he's been fantastic in training and matches. He's really a shining light to any professional out there, but he does have a big influence in the coaching room too. In terms of actual coaching, most of the work Giggsy and I do is done on an individual basis. Ryan in particular works a lot on the forwards and wide players, but he has to prepare himself to play as well. He's got the balance just right and I'd say he's handling it really well. He still gets changed in the first team dressing room but he's a coach. He's got that bit of class and experience to handle that, no problem.
It's also useful to have a member of the playing staff also on the coaching staff. It's not just actually on the field, it's on the training field too. He goes down into the dressing room and he's spreading the message. I'm sure the players have asked: 'what does he want from us?' and Ryan can spread the message about what the manager wants. This club has had the same manager for nearly 27 years. There's going to be slightly different training sessions, slight changes in style, and Ryan can help with that changeover period.
An idol to United's youngsters - by Sam Johnstone
It feels like he’s been playing forever - he made his debut before I was born! To stay at the very top for over 22 years is amazing and his achievements at United have been unbelievable. There aren’t many other words you can use to describe what he has achieved and what he has done for the club.
Everybody knows what great shape he keeps himself in. He eats well, works hard and that’s what has kept him going.
He’s brilliant for the young players. He’s always there to help and give you advice. He’ll tell you when you’ve done well and he’ll also tell you when you need to work on something…and he’ll have a laugh with you too. He’ll tell you straight about something and you always listen.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GIGGSY