Ryan Giggs uses ballet and yoga to keep him playing

Ryan Giggs returns on Sunday to the city of his birth — five days before he turns 40 — as Manchester United visit Cardiff, but it was on the green fields of Salford that his remarkable career was forged. 
 
His potential was identified first by a milkman shortly after he moved to Swinton from Wales with his parents and younger brother, Rhodri.
 
But even Dennis Schofield could not have predicted that 32 years later, that whippet-quick eight-year-old patrolling the left wing for Grosvenor Road Primary School would still be playing at the top level.
 
Giggs’s longevity is underlined by a roll call of achievement with United: 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions Leagues and 168 goals in 951 games.
 
United manager David Moyes says Giggs is comfortably fit enough to carry on playing next season, though a decision on retirement will be left to the player himself.
 
‘I don’t know what Ryan thinks (about next season) — but he doesn’t look like someone who is suddenly going to drop considerably,’ said Moyes. ‘He will know himself when it’s time.’
 
Schofield, who scouted for Manchester City when he was not delivering milk, remembers with great clarity the first time he saw Giggs play, back when he was still called Ryan Wilson.
 
‘You don’t forget those moments,’ said Schofield. ‘He was turning them inside out. He was like a gazelle — tall, slim, motoring up the wing.
 
‘His mum was on the touchline and I asked if he’d like to join our club: Deans. She jumped at the chance as they’d just moved and she wanted Ryan to make friends. He was one of the boys right from the off. I played him next game and he was stupendous.’ 
 
Giggs played summer tournaments on the Isle of Wight for Deans Youth Club. He was training with City at the time but that was when he first encountered United youngsters Paul Scholes and Phil and Gary Neville.
 
‘Even with the likes of them around, Ryan was head and shoulders above,’ said Schofield. ‘The coaches left their own teams playing and came over to watch our “flying left winger”.’
 
Giggs was on the brink of signing for City but Schofield claims they missed out due to the tenacity of the man who was to be the guiding force in the Welshman’s career. 
 
‘City thought they already had him, they had the red carpet rolled out,’ said Schofield. ‘But on his 14th birthday our chief scout was sat in his office while Alex Ferguson was sat on his sofa.’
 
It was not just Lancashire’s football teams who were chasing Giggs, whose father, Danny Wilson, played rugby league for Swinton Lions. 
 
‘Wigan’s rugby league team were ready to sign him, too,’ said Schofield. ‘If you watched Ryan’s father play rugby they had the same body swerve.’
 
Giggs admitted last week that playing as a stand-off at rugby league helped him. 
‘I was playing against props physically bigger than me,’ he said. ‘That helped make me able to take the battering.’
 
He was the first among the United players to work yoga into his training plan. But Eric Harrison, the former United youth-team coach credited with nurturing the class of ’92, thinks it was ballet that may have saved his career.
 
‘A ballet teacher used to come in and he worked on the stretching and muscle-strengthening exercise programme she devised,’ said Harrison. ‘That, for me, was a real turning point after he’d been having hamstring problems. He became virtually injury free and it did him the world of good.’
 
Even now, Giggs attends classes. ‘It is wonderful just being able to train every day and feeling good,’ he said.
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