Man Utd 'phenomenon' Giggs signs deal to play into his 40s
Tributes paid to player whose influence never wanes as he lines up 1,000th appearance
RYAN GIGGS will play on into his 40s after signing a contract extension with Manchester United that will keep him at the club until the summer of 2014.
News of the deal came ahead of the 22nd anniversary of his debut for United - in a 2-0 defeat to Everton in March 1991 - and as he prepares to make the 1,000th senior appearance of his career either against Norwich on Saturday or Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Announcing the new deal, his manager Alex Ferguson, the only man who has been at Old Trafford longer than him, described the 39-year-old winger as "phenomenal" and "unique".
Jim White in the Daily Telegraph agrees. "Giggs's generation-spanning, 1,000-match career is a pinnacle never likely to be matched, never mind surpassed. His is the most brutally Darwinian of professions: only the good survive, there is no sentiment in his continuing selection.
"That he remains at the top... astonishes even those who work closest to him."
Giggs is the most decorated British footballer in history with 25 medals under his belt, notes The Times. And if he stays fit he will follow in the footsteps of Gordon Strachan and Teddy Sheringham to become only the third outfielder over the age of 40 to play in the Premier League.
But as old adversary Martin Keown writes in the Daily Mail he has "an influence that never seems to wane". And he has been crucial to the success of Alex Ferguson.
"It's so rare for one person, let alone two, to be at the same club for so long - he and Ferguson are symbols of United's era of glory. There was so much hype surrounding him at the beginning but he has surpassed it all."
His old Manchester United team-mate Garry Pallister told Talksport that Giggs was a "freak of nature".
Giggs is one of only "three footballers who can make Ferguson's eyes sparkle just by mentioning their names," says Daniel Taylor of The Guardian. The others are Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona.
However, things have not gone completely smoothly for the Welsh winger. "There is no point pretending the tabloid scrutiny on Giggs's private life has not caused substantial damage to his public reputation," says Taylor. As a result, despite all his achievements, the chances of Sir Ryan Giggs appearing on the team sheet are now slim. ·