Giggs remains calm in heart of storm

LONDON - If anyone can put off-field problems out of his mind and concentrate solely on the huge task of beating Barcelona at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, it is Manchester United veteran Ryan Giggs.

Instead of being allowed to prepare for a fourth Champions League final in relative peace, the 37-year-old has endured a tsunami of publicity because of his role in trying to prevent the world's media from exposing an extra-marital affair.

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Giggs's case has become a cause celebre with his name mentioned in parliament and his photo on every front page. He was identified millions of times on the social netowrking platform Twitter.

His vast experience and his acknowledged calmn and maturity, built over the last 20 years and nearly 900 matches playing for his only club, cannot be under-estimated.

There is little doubt he will start on Saturday and every reason to believe that, if all goes according to plan for United, he will make a major contribution to their success.

He may have his troubles off the field now, but ever since he made his debut as a 17-year-old nearly 20 years ago, it has been glory, glory nearly all the way.

Remarkably, he was knocking on the first team door when Manchester United met Barcelona in the now defunct European Cup Winners' Cup final in 1991 when United won 2-1 with two Mark Hughes goals in Rotterdam.

Naturally disappointed to miss out then, he has more than made up since, overtaking Bobby Charlton's United appearance record and become the most decorated footballer in the history of the English game.

After Giggs had set United on their way to their semi-final victory over Schalke 04 last month, United manager Ferguson, for the umpteenth time, was asked about the Welshman's contribution.

"It's strange because Ryan's peak years seem to have lasted so long," mused the Scot, who has seen key players come and go at Old Trafford while Giggs has remained a fixture.

"You would think, at 37, he would be showing signs of waning but I don't see any evidence of that.

"We look after him in terms of rest before games but when he gets that freshness he doesn't show any sign of fatiguing at all. He is an amazing man."


He was an amazing boy when Ferguson first heard about his exploits and personally visited his parents' home on Giggs' 14th birthday clutching a signing-on form.

He turned professional on his 17th birthday in November 1991 and made his debut four months later.

Last week he picked up his 12th Premier League winners' medal to go with four FA Cups, four League Cups and two triumphs in the Champions League.

A key member of the 1999 treble-winning team, when his iconic solo goal won the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, it was also Giggs who stroked home the decisive penalty in the 2008 Champions League Final against Chelsea.

Those two moments en