Former team-mates of Manchester United great Ryan Giggs hailed his longevity as he celebrated his 40th birthday on Friday while still an active Premier League footballer.
Giggs’s landmark anniversary came just two days after his key role in United’s Champions League thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen and was the latest chapter in an extraordinary one-club career that saw him make his first-team debut as a 17-year-old in 1991.
“What Ryan is doing now is absolutely incredible,” former United and England full-back Gary Neville told Talksport Radio.
“If you didn’t know he was Ryan Giggs, you didn’t know his age and you just watched the game (against Leverkusen), you could argue he was 25,” he added as he reflected on the Welshman’s contribution to a 5-0 win over the German club.
“It was staggering to watch. I felt he was the best player on the pitch.
“He was the difference for United from what was a difficult game for them against Cardiff on Sunday to what was a really refreshing performance (against Leverkusen), where they passed the ball forwards through midfield.
“You think of those types of things in the 1950s and 60s when you hear of players like Stanley Matthews playing into their 40 and 50s, but you would never think it would happen in the modern game.
“You think maybe a defender or goalkeeper could play on, but a winger, who has played from the age of 16, 17 to the age of 40 and has adapted his game and is still looking like he can beat a player, it is brilliant.”
Steve Bruce, now the manager of Premier League Hull City, was one of United’s senior players when Giggs was making his way in the first team.
And the former United captain was convinced no player in future would enjoy anything like as long a top-flight career as Giggs.
“In my opinion there’ll never be somebody else who will play at that level from the age of 17 to 40,” said Bruce.
“It’s quite unbelievable. He’s still as fit as a flea, he’s still got the hunger and desire and he just enjoys playing football so much.
“He made his debut at 17 and to still be playing now is quite remarkable.
“We talk about money in the game too often but that’s never fazed him. He just wants to be the best player.
“He’s blessed with a natural ability to move and run. He’s a wonderful athlete.”