They may simply present him with a birthday cake, but Ryan Giggs suspects his team-mates are planning something more in tune with the mischievous mood of dressing rooms the world over to mark his 40th birthday on Friday.
“I’ll be glad when it is over,” Giggs said on Thursday. “It is obviously a milestone but I try not to think about it much – and I honestly don’t until people remind me. I don’t know if the lads are planning anything – but I’m not going in [to Manchester United’s Carrington training ground] just in case. I’m going to stay in bed.”
He will not, of course: it is in large part his dedication to fitness that has enabled Giggs to keep going. Wayne Rooney revealed that, during United’s 5-0 filleting of Bayer Lever-kusen on Wednesday, in which Giggs ran the midfield, an opponent asked him: “How is Giggs still playing at that age?” Rooney admitted he had no idea, but he was sure he would not be playing at 40.
Rio Ferdinand said he did not know Giggs’ secret either, but added: “I am going to have to see what he is eating and copy everything that he is doing. He is 40 years old and it is ridiculous to be playing at this level, but he must have been very lucky with his genetics.”
“I’m enjoying it, and it helps when you have legs around you,” said Giggs. “There’s Phil Jones in midfield and the front four [in Leverkusen] were brilliant, a real handful. So that helps.
“I tend to enjoy it more in December and January when the games come thick and fast and I can get into a rhythm.
“Obviously you’ve got to work hard during the week, put in the performances in training and hopefully you get picked. And when you are picked it is just like when you are younger really, you’ve got to take your chance.
“I still get a buzz from matches like Wednesday. You’ve got to – winning 5-0 away against the team second in the Bundesliga.”
United’s biggest away win in Europe’s elite competition since the days of the Busby Babes was highly impressive, especially with several key players out. “If we play like that we can reach another European final,” said Giggs, who has played in four Champions League finals, winning two. He added: “We have experience, youth, and speed and quality up front.”
Chris Smalling, who represents the more youthful side of United, said that Giggs is a role model. “He is a cool head in the middle,” Smalling said. “Despite his age, even in the 90th minute he was still taking on three or four [Leverkusen] players. It is terrific to see such a legend playing amongst us. His pass for Nani’s goal at the end just sums him up. He has that incredible vision. He is terrific and an example to everyone.”
Smalling added that Giggs and Rooney have been key in the way United have hit their straps, first against Cardiff, then in Germany. “We are starting to look a real threat from set pieces, which is important because the manager wants us to chip in,” Smalling said. “We have a few players who can be dangerous in those areas and with the delivery Rooney and Giggs were putting in, we were due.”