MANCHESTER - Ryan Giggs made another notch in his remarkable Manchester United career on Wednesday with his 800th appearance for the club.
The 35-year-old Welshman came on as a 67th-minute substitute in United's 1-0 defeat of Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final, first leg and almost marked the occasion with a goal, but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Giggs, voted England's Player of the Year by his peers in the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) on Sunday, won praise from an unlikely source before Wednesday's match -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Wenger told reporters that a player needs more than skill to prosper at the top level for so long and the evergreen Giggs demonstrated his class with a lively cameo.
"I have so much respect for him. He started his career in 1991 and we are now in 2009. When a player has spent 18 years at that level you have to have complete respect when you know what it demands - the sacrifices, the focus," Wenger said.
Although Sunday's award was his first major individual honour, Giggs is the most decorated player in the history of English soccer with 10 league championship medals, two Champions League medals, four FA Cups and three League Cups among his vast collection of silverware.
He no longer "tramps up and down the left wing" as United manager Alex Ferguson puts it, but he is still capable of turning a match with his sublime touch, his eye for the killer pass and even the rare goal.
When he scored the winner against West Ham United in February it brought him the record of scoring at least one goal in each of the last 19 seasons - including all 17 of the Premier League era.
Last season he broke Bobby Charlton's all-time appearance record for United when he played his 759th match as a substitute in the Champions League final against Chelsea in Moscow.
His name is etched into United's glittering history and his team mate Edwin van der Sar thinks that no-one will ever match his achievements.
"It will be hard to beat his record," the Dutch goalkeeper was quoted as saying by the Manchester Evening News.
"There are so many changes now with transfers and everything else and Ryan started out early. You will not see anything like that in future.
Ferguson has been singing his praises ever since handing him his debut as a curly-haired, lightning fast 17-year-old winger against Everton in the old First Division in March 1991.
He has still not run out of superlatives for him and in February awarded him a new contract that will keep him at Old Trafford until at least June 2010, a few months short of his 37th birthday.
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