'I still get angry in the dressing room. I'll shout. I'm a moaner. If someone's made a mistake, I'll let them know' - Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs is 40 next week but he remains as determined as ever to improve and set the standard at United, writes Henry Winter
The man who has won 13 Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions Leagues, who has scored 168 goals in 951 games for Manchester United, is busy working out how he can deal with his mother's text requesting "five tickets for Sunday". It's Cardiff City, the place of his birth. "It's emotional," Giggs admits. And next Friday he turns 40. "It's just another day," Giggs says.
It is a remarkable landmark but it is still all about the next game for Giggs. "It's sad because as a footballer you don't really take a lot of it in with birthdays and Christmas. Usually you're in training. Christmas Day I'll be in a hotel in Hull. It's what I'm used to. I've been doing it for 22 years."
He is still driven. "I'm always trying to improve myself, never settling for playing just well. Constantly, every season, I'm questioning the sports scientists and coaches so I can get better.
"I know the feeling of letting myself down and not producing on a Saturday and I always want to prepare myself to play well. We finish a game and it's, 'right, great result, who've we got Wednesday? Get yourself ready for Wednesday'. I probably don't get to enjoy football as much as I could. I enjoy it for a split second, then I'm on to the next game.
"I still get angry in the dressing-room. I'll shout. I'm a moaner. If someone's made a mistake, I'll let them know – 'what were you thinking?' – because I feel that's my job. I hope they learn from that. It made me stronger when Bryan Robson and the others did it to me... I remember sitting on the coach thinking: 'This is the end of the world, the gaffer (Alex Ferguson) has had a go at me, we've just got beaten and I've missed a chance and he's not going to play me next week.'
"Robbo would come up and say: 'Don't listen to him, you're young, you'll make mistakes, just come back the next game.'
"This has been the perfect club for me, the perfect manager, giving young players a chance. He recognised the history of the club and could foresee young players playing in the first team from seeing them in the youth team. 'Just do what you've been doing in the youth team,' he told me."
Now a player-coach, Giggs is sitting in a side room at Carrington, still lean, still defying time, still shaped by his schoolboy days.
"I was a stand-off at rugby league playing against props physically bigger than me. That helped make me able to take the battering. My first game (1991) I came on up front against Everton and Dave Watson went right through the back of me. I wasn't intimidated.
"This Sheffield United right-back was kicking me one game, giving me a few verbals and it affected me a little bit. I said to Robbo: 'That right-back's just said he's going to break my legs.' Robbo said: 'Did he? You come and play centre-midfield. I'm going to play left wing for 10 minutes.'
"We swapped positions. Robbo soon came back: 'Aye, you're all right now, go back over'. Problem solved! I had this mentality that if Robson was playing we'd never lose. Him and Brucey (Steve Bruce) were brilliant for me.