Irwin: Giggs' haul is unbeatable
Denis Irwin believes nobody will ever overhaul Ryan Giggs' collection of Barclays Premier League winners' medals.
The man who was substituted for the United legend back in March 1991 due to a first-half injury against Everton, allowing the Old Trafford crowd and wider footballing world a first glimpse of the teenager at senior level, cannot see the 13-strong haul being overtaken in the future.
As Giggs turns 40 and chases a 14th title success next May, his position as the most decorated footballer in the British game is unchallenged. Irwin's former team-mate is one of only three players to have lifted the trophy more times than the Irishman while the closest active player to Giggs is colleague Rio Ferdinand, who has six and is 35 himself.
"It's unbelievable," admitted Irwin. "It's well over 22 years now since his debut as it was in the spring of 1991.
"It just shows you what a dedicated player he is. He has been an unbelievable player, I have got to say that. The fact he has won so many Premier League medals is something that will never happen again. Without doubt, the amount of games he has played for Manchester United might be matched, because you could get another player as outstandingly good as Giggsy, but you will never get another player who has won so much."
Reflecting on Giggs' emergence into the first team as a 17-year-old, Irwin feels there was a maturity, intelligence and diligence about the Welshman's play even then.
"What I will say is he was fantastic for me when he broke into the side," stated the man whose last title triumph came in 2000/2001. "He was a fantastic winger. He could take players on, cross the ball really well and also score plenty of goals.
"But he also did the ugly side of the game really well, tracking back and working hard. As a full-back, I could always trust him on that, even as a young lad, and he developed from there.
"He has almost had to reinvent himself but he can play behind the front man or on the wing still. He's also happy in a three in midfield, breaking forward, and can even play in a two because his defensive work is so solid. It's a testament to him and the dedication that he has shown to still be playing at the highest level at the age of 40."
Premier League winners' medals
13: Ryan Giggs
11: Paul Scholes
8: Gary Neville
7: Denis Irwin, Roy Keane
6: David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Neville, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Bold = Still playing.