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Ryan Giggs: Fit, 40 and still firing

By Tom McGowan, CNN
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Ryan Giggs celebrates his 40th birthday on Friday. The Manchester United midfielder shows no signs of slowing down at the tail end of a playing career which is now in its third decade. Ryan Giggs celebrates his 40th birthday on Friday. The Manchester United midfielder shows no signs of slowing down at the tail end of a playing career which is now in its third decade.
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40 and counting
Teen sensation
Kings of Europe
'Class of 92'
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Peerless Paolo
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs celebrates 40th birthday on Friday
  • The Welshman made his United debut in 1991
  • Giggs is the most decorated player in English football history
  • He has won 13 Premier League titles and the European Cup twice

(CNN) -- Ryan Giggs is venturing where few footballers have gone before.

On Friday the Welshman turned 40, marking the start of a new chapter of a career which has seen him achieve unprecedented success with Manchester United.

Twenty two years, eight months and 27 days on from his debut for the Old Trafford club, Giggs is officially the most decorated player in English football history.

The explosive winger turned midfield playmaker has won 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions League titles, not to mention numerous personal accolades.

Whle most middle aged men are worrying about their waistlines, Giggs seemingly remains impervious to the ravages of time.

So just what is his secret?

According to the man himself -- yoga

"You can feel it working and you can feel the benefits straight away," he was quoted as telling the Manchester Evening News. "My body feels so much better having done the yoga.

"I still get the odd hamstring strain, which you are going to get playing football, but it wasn't about curing the problem, but making it less frequent. I wish I had done it from the start of my career."

At an age where most players have long since hung up their boots, 8308 days on from his first United appearance as a substitute in a 2-0 defeat by Everton, Giggs is demonstrating rare longevity.

David Beckham's latest autobiography was launched via a 'global book signing' that was streamed on Facebook to entice the 30.5 million people who 'like' his page to shell out for a copy. It showcased how important social media is becoming in helping to promote new releases. David Beckham's latest autobiography was launched via a 'global book signing' that was streamed on Facebook to entice the 30.5 million people who 'like' his page to shell out for a copy. It showcased how important social media is becoming in helping to promote new releases.
The perfect pitch
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The perfect pitch The perfect pitch
As a player, Alex Ferguson enjoyed a moderately successful career. A prolific striker, he scored 170 goals in 317 appearances including 25 goals in 41 appearances for Glasgow Rangers.
As a player, Alex Ferguson enjoyed a moderately successful career. A prolific striker, he scored 170 goals in 317 appearances including 25 goals in 41 appearances for Glasgow Rangers.
A formidable forward
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The seven moments which define Alex Ferguson The seven moments which define Alex Ferguson
Everton manager David Moyes (left) and Manchester United's soon-to-retire boss Alex Ferguson (right) are pictured during the FA Cup semifinal match between their two teams at Wembley Stadium in April 2009. United announced Wednesday that Ferguson, 71, will be retiring at the end of the season after more than a quarter of a century at the helm. Everton manager David Moyes (left) and Manchester United's soon-to-retire boss Alex Ferguson (right) are pictured during the FA Cup semifinal match between their two teams at Wembley Stadium in April 2009. United announced Wednesday that Ferguson, 71, will be retiring at the end of the season after more than a quarter of a century at the helm.
David Moyes: Alex Ferguson's successor
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David Moyes: Alex Ferguson\'s successor David Moyes: Alex Ferguson's successor

"Ryan is obviously a different player now compared to when he broke through as a 17-year-old winger," Henning Berg, who played alongside Giggs at United between 1997 and 2000, told the club's official website.

"But that says a lot about how football has developed in terms of sports science to make sure that players still have enough power and energy to play the physical part of the game."

Even accounting for advances in sports science, Giggs' ability to remain effective at the top level as he enters his fifth decade is still exceptional.

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Italian defensive stalwart Paolo Maldini, a picture of durability and the rock of a successful AC Milan defense for 24 years, called time on his own glittering career at Giggs' age.

Brazilian striker Romario retired in 2008 aged 42, before making a one-game comeback in 2009, saying he was unable to regulate his body weight while not playing regularly.

It is Giggs' ability to remain in peak physical condition which sets him apart from other aged soccer stars.

Few players could have controlled a top-level match the way Giggs did this week, orchestrating United's 5-0 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen in a Champions League group match.

United manager David Moyes, who took over from Ferguson at Old Trafford, is still a keen admirer of Giggs' talents.

The Scot highlighted Giggs as the perfect role model for any young player looking for a long, successful career in the sport.

"People mention his age but all you should mention is his football ability," Moyes, who has appointed Giggs as a player/coach, told a press conference.

"He's an unbelievable footballer. All round he is a wonderful player and I am really fortunate to be working with him.

Celebrities Fernanda Lima and Rodrigo Hilbert (right) will host Friday's World Cup draw, having been brought in to replace the original choice of actors Lazaro Ramos and Camila Pitanga -- which was an unpopular decision with many Brazilians. Celebrities Fernanda Lima and Rodrigo Hilbert (right) will host Friday's World Cup draw, having been brought in to replace the original choice of actors Lazaro Ramos and Camila Pitanga -- which was an unpopular decision with many Brazilians.
Presenting to the world
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Cristiano Ronaldo
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Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates the second of his three goals on a night when he not only sent Portugal to the World Cup but also became his country's joint top scorer (47 goals). Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates the second of his three goals on a night when he not only sent Portugal to the World Cup but also became his country's joint top scorer (47 goals).
The Magnificent Seven
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"Ryan will tell us when he has had enough, or when he thinks his time is up," the former Everton manager added.

"He keeps training day in day out and his performances since I came to the club in the summer have been excellent.

"I think, when you get to Ryan's age, it's best to make decisions at the end of the season. It's how you feel, how you've done over the year and what your body is telling you.

"There's no quick decisions on that one. He's on the staff now, so we can always use him at any time!"

Giggs also credits his continued influence and fitness to spending his entire career at one club, avoiding the upheaval which can accompany numerous transfers.

"If I'd moved from club to club I'd be finished by now," Giggs said after his virtuoso performance in Leverkusen.

"I'm lucky that I have been at one club, where I am surrounded by good players. I also have a good manager.

"I look after myself and try to train every day in order to make myself available for selection.

"I enjoy it as much as I can and, of course, try to contribute to the team."

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For much of his time at United Giggs was part of a group of homegrown players affectionately known as the "Class of 92" -- referring to the year United won the FA Youth Cup.

Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary and Phil Neville all broke into the first team together and went on to achieve era-defining success under the tutelage of legendary United manager Alex Ferguson, who retired last season after 26 years at the helm.

In his recently-released book Ferguson refers to Giggs as the leader of the group, who are celebrated in the forthcoming documentary "Class of '92."

"He was the King, the man," says Ferguson when referring to his longest serving players.

On Sunday Giggs could make his 954th appearance for United in its match against Tottenham Hotspur.

At 40, he is four years older than Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas, a statistic which puts Giggs' incredible staying power into perspective.

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