By Russell Stoddart
Gary Pallister insists Ryan Giggs will continue to rip up the record books and could carry on playing for Manchester United well into his forties.
The former Red Devils defender believes the one-year deal announced on Friday that will take Giggs beyond his 40th birthday in November might not be the last one he signs for the club.
Giggs looks set to celebrate his new contract by chalking up his 1000th competitive appearance for club and country against Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
In a record-breaking career, he has accumulated 12 Premier League titles, and won four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions Leagues.
|NO SLOWING DOWN
|RYAN GIGGS' CAREER RECORD
“People might assume that this new one-year extension will be his last, but I’m not so sure. He remains in great physical shape and still has a huge hunger to play.
“Of course, he has been fortunate that he’s not had any major operations and the injuries he has picked up have tended to be muscle-related, such as hamstrings, but he has made the most of that good fortune.
“I was sitting next to Bryan Robson recently and after a United attack was broken up, Giggsy sprinted back to cover his own left-back. Bryan and I looked at each other and shook our heads in disbelief.
“Advancement in sports science means that players are playing longer these days, but I don’t think we will see anyone [else] getting close to 1000 games for United in my lifetime.”
Pallister believes that Giggs has benefited from lessons learned by United over their handling of George Best in the 1960s and '70s.
A generation on, Giggs was the Best of his day, but there was no chance that he would succumb to the lifestyle distractions that ultimately curtailed the career of the wayward Irish genius.
Pallister continued: “I know that Alex Ferguson had some chats with Sir Matt Busby about George Best and received some good advice on avoiding the same pitfalls.
“Although I don’t think it ever reached the stage where George spoke directly to Giggsy on the subject, Giggsy was protected in a way that few footballers had been previously.
“That said, Giggsy never showed any sign he would be tempted to go off the rails. He has tremendous discipline and mental strength, and a hunger and desire to keep performing at the top level.”
Several of the current United squad were barely out of their nappies when the Welsh wing wizard made his debut for United as a substitute in a home defeat by Everton in March 1991.
Pallister was one of the elder statesmen in a makeshift United line-up that day but knew that the 17-year-old YTS kid replacing an injured Denis Irwin was the real deal.
He added: “He looked so skinny and scared, but even then there was a toughness about him. He was mentally strong and wouldn’t allow himself to be bullied.”
It did not take Giggs long to make his mark at United. In his only other match that season he scored the winner in a Manchester derby.
While his debut might have been a modest introduction to the first-team, Pallister had been keeping an interested eye on Giggs’ progress through the youth ranks at United.
"I believe he is already as good as Best, Cantona, Charlton and Law"
Pallister added: “I had just signed for United from Middlesbrough and was living in the club’s hostel along with another new signing, Paul Ince. We were at a loose end one night and decided to pass some time by going to watch the youth team.
“Incey and I were sitting in the director’s box next to the gaffer. He told us to keep an eye on a young kid called Ryan Wilson and said he was going to be a big star. Wilson was his name before he changed it to Giggs and decided to play for Wales rather than England, who he represented as a schoolboy.
“When he ran on the pitch he looked every bit the skinny schoolboy he was. Even the shirt on his back looked too heavy for him.
“But the gaffer was right because from the first minute he got the ball you could tell he possessed something special.”
Pallister is credited with coining the phrase “twisted blood” to describe the speed and trickery that left opponents trailing in his wake.
“He would run you inside and out,” he went on. “I used to hate it if I was up against him in training. I had some sympathy for anyone who came up against him and I’m just glad he was on our side.”
As for his place in the pantheon of the game, Pallister points to the record number of honours he has picked up and has no doubts that Giggs ranks alongside the United greats in the hearts of the Red Devils' fans.
He added: “I believe he is already as good as Best, [Eric] Cantona, [Sir Bobby] Charlton and [Denis] Law. Who knows what he might go on to achieve? I sometimes wonder if he writes his own scripts!”