Ferguson salutes Giggs as star eyes 900 games

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MANCHESTER  (AFP) – Sir Alex Ferguson has paid a fresh tribute to Ryan Giggs as the Manchester United veteran edges towards yet another impressive landmark.

Giggs, 38, is in line to make his 900th appearance for United in their Europa League match against Ajax at Old Trafford on Thursday, although he could be rested as his team holds a 2-0 lead from the first leg in Amsterdam.

That would leave Giggs to notch up that mark in Premier League champions United’s next league game at Norwich on Sunday, and Ferguson believes that English football will never see his like again.

“My personal view, and I don’t think everyone will agree with me, is that being in the Premier League as long as he has and having achieved what he has, I don’t think any other player will do that,” the United manager said Wednesday.

“It’s amazing. When you look back to (the 2008 Champions League Final in) Moscow when he beat Bobby Charlton’s (United appearance) record that night, you are talking about almost 100 games since then. It’s phenomenal,” Ferguson added.

“He keeps defying his age and this season he has just been the same as he was back in Moscow. His performance level, then to today, nothing has changed. He’s just amazing.”

Ferguson believes being versatile has been key to Giggs’ longevity.

“There is a maturity in respect of Ryan and changing his position a few times, to play more central. He’s given different aspects to his game,” added the Scot.

“You always remember what Ryan was famous for — up and down that touchline running at full-backs with great balance and speed.

“It’s a different Ryan Giggs today.

“He’s still got a change of pace and wonderful balance but he’s not as quick as he was 10 years ago and he probably looks at the game in a different way.”

Giggs has just signed a one-year extension, keeping him at Old Trafford until the summer of 2013 and, with 64 Wales caps and two Under-21 appearances to his name, it is plausible he will notch up 1,000 games of senior football before retiring.

“What age would he be?,” smiled Ferguson, when asked if he thought that was possible.

“Stanley Matthews played at 50, didn’t he? We will have to wait and see.”

Giggs’ teammate Tom Cleverley, 22, is at the other end of the experience scale and is continuing his comeback from an ankle injury which has hampered his development this season.

But he returned in the first leg against Ajax and is expected to make a strong bid for a place in England’s European Championship squad later this year.

“Hopefully, if I can get into good form between now and the end of the season, I would be more than happy to be involved in the Euros,” said Cleverley.

Having made 16 appearances at Under-21 level, Ferguson believes the midfielder is well positioned for an England career.

“He, along with (Chris) Smalling, (Phil) Jones, (Danny) Welbeck, have all been involved in the England squad, so the indications are there that he would be in the frame anyway,” said Ferguson.

Meanwhile, Ferguson praised Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini for his handling of the Carlos Tevez affair.

Former United striker Tevez has finally apologised for his self-imposed exile from City and Ferguson said: “It’s been a long saga really.

“Obviously everyone expected him to apologise. There was no way they were going to put him in the 25-man (Premier League) squad if he wasn’t going to apologise. I think Roberto Mancini has handled it very well.”

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