Giggs: 20 years not out
Twenty years ago, on 2 March 1991, a budding United youngster named Ryan Giggs made his Old Trafford entrance. Now, he's the club's most decorated servant and recently put pen to paper on a new deal, ensuring he'll remain a Red until at least next summer. But for Giggs, now 37, his first-team debut remains all a bit of a blur.
"It’s weird because it’s all a total blank," Giggs recently told Inside United. “I don’t know why – maybe it’s because the whole thing was so unexpected. I do know I came for Denis [Irwin]. But I saw some clips of the game a few years ago and I could barely remember anything!"
After a record 863 appearances and counting for United, it’s perhaps forgiveable that the mind goes a bit hazy on the detail, but Ryan recalls more clearly his first start against Manchester City.
"I remember a lot more about the City game because I expected to be involved in that, although I was still surprised when the manager named me in the starting XI. I thought I’d be on the bench for that one," he added.
That game had the best possible outcome for the 17-year-old, with a derby-winning goal, albeit one of dubious origin, having taken a sizeable deflection off Blues defender Colin Hendry.
"I don’t think I’d have got away with [claiming] it these days!” he jokes. "I remember the manager asking me if I’d got a touch on it and I said: ‘No, I don’t think so.' His response was: ‘Well, I’m telling everyone it’s your goal so you’d better do the same.'"
It was a whirlwind of excitement for a young man who was also called up to the Welsh squad, making his debut against Germany as the then-youngest-ever Wales international.
“I’ll never forget Mark Hughes driving me to Wales in his Porsche when I got my first call-up," recalled Ryan. "I remember getting into his car and thinking: ‘What do I say?’ We had a good chat, though, and he was really good with me, both at United and when we were away with Wales – it was the stuff of dreams for me at the time.”
So now he’s the elder statesman of the dressing room, how well does he get on with United’s current crop of youngsters?
“There was an article in the paper about it being 20 years since my debut and they had some stats in there that the lads were killing me about. Rafa [da Silva] and Fabio were only eight months old at the time!
"To be honest, though, it doesn’t really feel like I’m 37; I have some great banter with the young players and still think of myself as just one of the lads.”
So, as the Peter Pan of Manchester United continues into his 21st year in the first team – with a contract extension to the end of next season – it’s our continuing good fortune that his form, ability and influence are barely diminished by the passing years. Why stop at 2012?