Ryan Giggs is the role model for all the players at Manchester United, says Chris Smalling

The Welsh midfielder will turn 40 tomorrow

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has labelled birthday boy Ryan Giggs the role model all his team-mates look up to.

Giggs celebrates his 40th birthday on Friday with United manager David Moyes believing the Welshman is still improving.

Certainly his performance in Wednesday night's 5-0 Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen suggests Giggs still has plenty to offer and, should he so wish, he worthy of yet another contract extension at the end of the season.

Giggs did not score on Wednesday night. Nor, indeed, could he claim more than one direct assist given Wayne Rooney was responsible for the final pass for the first four United goals.

His experience still shone through as he controlled the game at the pace he wished, always seeming to make the right pass.

"Ryan is a role model for us all," said Smalling.

"He is a cool head in the middle.

"Despite his age, even in the 90th minute he was still taking on three or four 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."

The biggest issue Moyes has with Giggs right now is when to pick him and when to give him the rest so obviously required.

It cannot be easy, especially with Michael Carrick on the sidelines and neither Marouane Fellaini nor Tom Cleverley able to match Giggs' influence in central midfield.

Leverkusen boss Sami Hyypia doubtless wishes Moyes had elected to save Giggs' legs in readiness for Sunday's trip to Tottenham given he was responsible for an overall United performance the Finn accepted was far too good for his own side.

"We really punished them," said Smalling.

"Bayern Munich were the only team to take points off them at their ground in the league this season, which speaks for itself.

"But we put them to the sword.

"Once we got two goals ahead you could see their heads drop.

"They knew they were going to be well beaten because we were not going to let that lead slip."

Only once in their entire history have United won an away game in Europe by a greater margin.

That 6-0 win in 1957 was at the expense of Irish part-timers Shamrock Rovers, not the team presently second in the Bundesliga/

Remarkably, Leverkusen could still join United in the knockout stages providing Shakhtar Donetsk do not leave Old Trafford with a victory that would deprive Moyes' side of top spot in Group A when the sides meet in a fortnight.

Not even Sir Alex Ferguson won a European away fixture by five goals.

The best he could manage was a 6-2 success against Brondby in Copenhagen during the group stage of the 1999 Treble winning campaign.

It could, therefore, turn out to be a significant evening for Moyes, who has still not convinced everyone he is the right man to replace Ferguson.

Smalling can look back on the evening with satisfaction too.

Criticised by Moyes for conceding the injury-time free-kick from which Cardiff got their shock equaliser on Sunday, the former Fulham man was a far more confident presence at right-back.

He even chipped in with a goal, finishing off from close range at the far post, from a cross provided by Rooney.

"We have been threatening to do that all season," he said.

"There have been a few times when we have gone ahead in games and not got the second that would allow us to kick on to make ourselves a bit more comfortable.

"I am quite pleased to get on the scoresheet too.

"I have been getting closer and closer over the last few games, although my goal was probably the easiest chance I will ever have.

"We are starting to look a real threat from set pieces, which is important because the manager wants us to chip in.

"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."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn