David Moyes jokingly suggested Ryan Giggs’ Manchester United team-mates might be trying to usher him out of the players’ dressing room by buying him a coach’s watch for his 40th birthday.
The Scot also admitted when he arrived at Old Trafford he expected to find a fading force in the veteran Welshman, no longer capable of having an impact, as so many critics have suggested down the years. Moyes accepts he could not have been more wrong.
And given Giggs’ outstanding contribution to Wednesday’s 5-0 hammering of Bayer Leverkusen, it is unlikely the United squad would want to be without the man who has now played an incredible 953 games for the Red Devils.
“When I came I expected to see someone who must be dropping off, must be fading,” said Moyes. “I thought it would be obvious and I heard a lot of pundits thinking that as well. I came with the idea that maybe he is not quite the same. But I can honestly say he has been fantastic.
“For Ryan to be playing so well at his age is terrific and a great example to young players about how you should dedicate yourself throughout your career. Also to players who get into their early to mid-30s and think things are coming to an end it shows if you really look after yourself and train well, you can go on for a lot longer.”
One of Moyes’ first decisions after replacing Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer was to appoint Giggs to his coaching team. He does make a contribution behind the scenes. But once training starts, he is in the thick of it, not on the outside watching, exactly as it has to be.
“When you get older you have to train as hard as the young ones,” said Moyes. “He’s been great for me. I’ve used him to settle into my job. He is involved in all the stuff we do regarding the team but once we have decided what we are doing, and who is doing what, he will go and train with the players, just as he has done for the past 20 years.”
In his wide-ranging discussions with Ferguson before his own appointment was confirmed, it was suggested to Moyes that Giggs would come into his own a few months into the campaign, when the pitches became softer. It was a point reinforced by the man himself on his first encounter with Moyes in the summer. The reality turned into something completely different.
“I knew Ryan would be the dictator of it,” said Moyes. “He said he took a bit longer to get ready and didn’t tend to start the season. But he played a lot of pre-season. I felt he was ready to start and we needed him. He has shown he was capable of that.”
Giggs may still be waiting for the Premier League goal that would extend his record of scoring in every season the competition has existed but few would bet against it happening at some point. “We always have a discussion about when is the best time to use him and we also get a feel from him,” said Moyes. “Last Saturday, before we went to Cardiff, he was fantastic in training and if I had my way I’d have played him.
“One of his presents was a coach’s watch – I think they are beginning to think about pushing him out of the dressing room.
“It is not a problem for him to play in two or three games but I had it in my mind Marouane Fellaini was suspended for the European game and I didn’t want to risk Ryan so quickly.”
That suggests Giggs will not start at Tottenham tomorrow at the White Hart Lane ground where he confirmed his class with a sensational solo goal in 1992, when he was only 18. He has gone on to become the most decorated player in English football history, setting records it is impossible to imagine will ever be matched. “He’s undoubtedly at the top,” said Moyes, of Giggs’ standing in the modern game.
And as for the future, bearing in mind speculation is already starting over an additional year’s contract extension. “When you get to this age you wait until the end of the season before making a decision,” said Moyes. “It is based on how you feel, how you have done over the year and what your body is telling you. There are no quick decisions.”