Giggs in best form of career, says Phelan
Published 17/02/2009 | 00:49
Ryan Giggs is too modest to say whether he is in the form of his life, so the Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan did it for him.
Giggs turned in another sensational performance at Pride Park on Sunday as United eased past Derby to book an FA Cup quarter-final trip to either Swansea or Fulham next month.
For a player who has achieved just about every possible milestone in a Red Devils career which now extends to 788 games, the last-eight draw sets up the possibility of Giggs meeting a Welsh club, in his homeland, in a competitive game for the first time in his career.
Other even more noteworthy events should occur later in the season as the world champions chase an incredible quintuple, while Giggs' present form has put him right in the frame to win the major individual player of the year awards.
"There is an argument to say Ryan is playing better than he has ever done," Phelan said. "He looks after himself, is totally professional and seems to have found a rich vein of form. He goes on to another level every year. We can only be happy with that."
Giggs had a hand in all four United goals yesterday, plus the one Cristiano Ronaldo had controversially disallowed. And, although Giggs is likely to be rested for tomorrow's Premier League encounter with Fulham, he seems sure to have a major part to play in United's quest for silverware.
"I am certainly enjoying my football more than ever," Giggs said. "It is for other people to judge whether I am playing as well as I have ever done. But I am playing quite regularly and the team are playing well."
Last Thursday, Giggs signed a one-year contract extension which emphasises Sir Alex Ferguson's belief that a player with 10 Premier League titles, two European Cups and four FA Cups – a fifth would equal the competition record – still has the hunger to strive for more.
The former Wales captain recognises that his role in the team has changed, from flying wing wizard to midfield schemer. But, with younger legs around him taking some of the pressure away, Giggs is capable of making a devastating contribution, as Derby found to their cost.
"I am not going to sprint in behind defenders like I used to but I use my experience to get on the ball and try to create from there," he said. "You know without even looking sometimes that a colleague will be there because the movement is so good. I was pleased to sign for another year and look forward to being a part of this team."
With Wayne Rooney set for a place on the substitutes' bench at best – Ferguson is tempted to leave him out until Saturday'smatch against Blackburn – Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov are set to return to a more familiar starting line-up on Wednesday.
The goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar will look to extend his incredible clean-sheet streak to 14 games against his former club, which would put United well on the way towards opening a five-point gap in the Premier League over second-placed Liverpool.
A trophy quintuple of Premier League, FA Cup, Carling Cup and Champions League – with the Club World Cup already in the bag – is still possible but, rather than make any predictions, Giggs is just happy to confirm United are merely playing well.
"We don't think of ourselves as invincible but we are in good form and on a great run," he said. "Every player that comes in needs to take their chance. You are finding that lads coming in are fresh and we are playing some good stuff."
The Derby midfielder Robbie Savage was in doubt about the quality Giggs still brings to United. "I don't care what anyone else says, Ryan Giggs is the best Premier League player ever," Savage said. "It is not just the trophies he has won or the goals he has scored, it is the way he has conducted himself. You can look at certain superstars in the game and question their lifestyles. But Ryan Giggs has won more than anybody and he conducts himself well. He is a great character."