Ferguson hails Giggs longevity as he signs new one-year contract
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson does not believe the incredible feats of Ryan Giggs will ever be repeated.
The club have confirmed Giggs - who will make his 1,000th senior competitive appearance if he features against Norwich tomorrow - has signed yet another one-year contract extension.
The new deal will take the Welshman beyond his 40th birthday and is a reward for his recent stellar performances, included a goal in last week's win at QPR that kept him in line to land a record 13th league championship.
"What an incredible career," said Ferguson.
"He seems to reach a new milestone every week. It's unique in the modern game, but I think it's more than that - I don't think it will ever be achieved again by anyone."
Other than legendary AC Milan duo Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta, it is difficult to think of anyone who has remained at the very highest level for quite so long, and, as Ferguson has previously pointed out, the physical demands on a defender do not compare to those made on an attacking player.
"Twenty-three years in the first team is unbelievable," said Ferguson.
"He is an example to all in the way he looks after himself.
"I told him this morning I expect a bill from his mother for all the sandwiches and teas she used to make for us when we went to his house every week when we were trying to get him to sign schoolboy forms.
"It seems a long time ago. He will be involved (against Norwich) tomorrow and on Tuesday (against Real Madrid) so somewhere along the line he is going to play his 1,000th game this week."
Giggs has always said he was never in a rush to determine his short-term future.
There have been points this season when he did not appear to have one.
However, he has rediscovered his most effective form over recent weeks and now has a major part to play in United's treble quest.
"I am feeling good, enjoying my football more than ever and, most importantly, feel I am making a contribution to the team," said the veteran Welshman.
"This is an exciting team to be part of, with great team spirit, and we are again pushing for trophies as we head towards the business end of the season."
Although Giggs' role has changed down the years, from the flying winger of old to the calming influence in central midfield, he retains the core abilities Ferguson believes have set him apart from most of his peers.
"He still has that wonderful youthfulness in the way he plays, he still has great balance and a change of pace," said the United boss.
"He still has his fitness and still gets you a goal."
A bit like his own stint as manager, Ferguson finds it impossible to say when Giggs will eventually finish, mainly because he has not suffered the type of injuries that ended Gary Neville's career and currently sideline Paul Scholes.
"Every coach has to look at his players when they get into their 30s because if you get injuries then there is no doubt it has an effect," said Ferguson.
"Ryan has never had any real injuries but unfortunately that was the case for Gary Neville and Paul Scholes has got that little problem with his knee at this moment in time.
"He's on the mend now, but when you get injuries at this age it takes you a little while to get back.
"Paul has been amazing because he's had two or three injuries over the years and has come back better every time.
"I'm sure we'll get the benefits of Paul Scholes at the tail end of the season."
Scholes has already given coaching a go, having worked with United's reserve team during the first half of last season, when he was in a retirement he eventually abandoned.
Nicky Butt is currently doing the same thing and while Giggs has spoken of managerial ambitions in the past, Ferguson believes the 39-year-old will initially remain within the Red Devils fold when he does eventually decide to hang up his boots.
"The plan is for Ryan to stay on (at the club after he's finished playing)," said Ferguson.
"Involvement after they've played here is important, whether that be as a coach or assistant manager or working with the youth team.
"If anyone has ambitions to be a manager you should take on different roles before you get there, almost as a preparation.
"He (Giggs) has got to take his badges and spend time with the young players in the academy and prepare eventually to be a manager."