FERGUSON: RYAN GIGGS ECLIPSES MALDINI
Sir Alex Ferguson believes Ryan Giggs' astonishing career even eclipses that of legendary Italian Paolo Maldini.
The evergreen Manchester United man will be making his 900th appearance if he plays some part in Thursday night's Europa League last-32 encounter with Ajax at Old Trafford.
Few come close to being such a star performer, at such a high level, for such a long time.
The immediate comparison is with Maldini.
His first-team career with AC Milan spanned 24 years and he also made 900 appearances; 902 to be exact, before he quit, in 2009, a month before his 41st birthday.
Yet even there Ferguson feels there is a subtle difference that has to be taken into account when analysing the respective merits of two brilliant players.
"Obviously Maldini was a magnificent player but there is a distinction," said the United boss.
"Maldini was a defender and although in his case, he probably put in a lot of running as a full-back, wide players have more work to do.
"It is amazing really. If you go back to Moscow, you are talking almost another 150 games further on.
"He keeps defying age. This season he has just been the same as he was back in Moscow. There is nothing changed from his performance level then as it is today."
As they had a weekend off immediately after the first-leg triumph in Amsterdam, it is only now
Ferguson is being forced to wrestle with the thorny issue of a Thursday night turnaround to Sunday, which has proved so problematic to so many teams.
A trip to Norwich is hardly ideal so there is a chance Giggs will not have any more than a fleeting involvement.
The same might have been said of Wayne Rooney, even without the sore throat that rules him out anyway, putting that journey to Carrow Road on to Rooney's agenda.
And, as Ferguson points out, he has more than enough alternatives who do need some time on the pitch as his injury concerns start to ease, with even Michael Owen back in training that might allow a return from a groin strain within a couple of weeks.
"There are a lot of players who need a game; Nani, Young, Hernandez, Cleverley, Smalling, Jones," said the Scot.
"Those players will all play tomorrow and we hope to put a sprinkling of experience amongst it."
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