Ten years on, his hair a little greyer, Ryan Giggs recalled the most famous moment of an illustrious career: when he scored the winner in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Villa Park and whipped off his shirt in celebration. "I used to say I would never do it again but you never know," he said. "If you score an important winning goal again in the last minute you might just do it."
Giggs had reason to celebrate on Sunday night, surrounded by family and team-mates in the Grosvenor House Hotel in London as he collected his first ever PFA Player of the Year award at the age of 35. In an illustrious career that has included more trophies than any player in English football this one seemed to have an emotional value for Giggs, a man whose 18 years in the game means that at times he has been taken for granted.
By yesterday morning he was back in Manchester to prepare for what will be another monumental semi-final against Arsenal, this time in the Champions League. "There's a reason why no team has ever retained the Champions League – and that's because it's really difficult," Giggs said. "We had the challenge of going to Porto, when it was a case of backs against the wall against a very good team but we came through it and we need two similar performances against Arsenal because they're playing well.
"I remember the goal in '99 and I know I will be remembered for it. I don't know if I like it – but that's because people remember the celebration more than the goal. When you score a goal, especially an important one like that, then the feelings rise up and you've got no control over yourself, you just haven't. That's what football is all about. You never know what's going to happen next."
The PFA brought Joe Calzaghe from Cardiff to present the award to Giggs and they even shipped in a Welsh male voice choir to serenade him. As a proud Welshman, and a football man through and through, it probably does not get any better. But at Manchester United the lesson that Giggs embodies more than any other is that standing still is not an option.
Giggs listed the sacrifices he has made: alcohol, diet, even yoga – for his hamstrings – which is not something many men from Cardiff would admit to. "When I was 19 if I thought I'd be playing in a Champions League semi-final at 35, I'd have said no. But I look after myself. It helps when you've got good players around you and hopefully I am playing against Arsenal."