The two United stalwarts had a discussion about Ryan Giggs, his age, his game, retirement and more. Here’s a copy of what transpired between the two.
Gary Neville: Do you have days at the age of 39 when you think: ‘This is fast’?
Ryan Giggs: If I’m playing on the left against Rafael…
Gary Neville [laughing]: You tuck in?
Ryan Giggs [laughing]: I just tuck in! Tom Cleverley and Carra (Michael Carrick) in the centre of midfield are saying: ‘What are you doing here?’ So I just tuck in next to them!
Gary Neville: There are some days when you have to manage yourself in those sessions…
Ryan Giggs: Yeah. You have to. Training sessions are full on. I’m playing left-wing probably against Antonio (Valencia) and Rafael. When are you going to get that in a Premier League game? The intensity of those two? So it just steps you up a notch. You know what I’m like, if someone takes the ball off me. It’s: ‘You can’t do that!’
Gary Neville [laughing]: The eyes go!
Ryan Giggs: Yeah, the eyes go! It just fuels you. Then you just get stuck into tackles and it steps you up. It’s that natural progression.
Gary Neville: I remember clearly when I knew I had to quit. That game at West Brom on New Year’s Day, 2011, when I felt I was a liability to the team at the age of 35. Where’s your West Brom moment? What’s going to make you stop?
Ryan Giggs: When I stop affecting games, really, when I stop contributing. I’ve got to be careful. You speak about your West Brom moment but I’ve had a few of them…
Gary Neville: Really?
Ryan Giggs: This year, against Cluj, against Tottenham at home. I came off at half-time against Tottenham. The team were awful but I was awful. Cluj at home this year, I was shocking. Once I get into a rhythm, and it’s usually around Christmas time, when it starts getting a bit colder and the games are coming and probably a lot of players are going backwards, I come into a peak then so that’s a massive plus for me. And the manager knows when to use me.
Gary Neville: At those points, when everything gets on top of you and you think: ‘This could be it.’ Do you have those moments?
Ryan Giggs: Yeah. But it doesn’t last for long. I was down after those two games.
Gary Neville: How do you get yourself up? Do you listen to the media, people saying: ‘Oh, he should retire now’?
Ryan Giggs: No. It doesn’t have any influence on me whatsoever. It used to, because you’re young.
Gary Neville: At what point did that change?
Ryan Giggs: Well, a watershed season for me in that respect was around 2002 when I was getting a bit of stick. Only for a few games, I think it was slightly exaggerated. But probably then, I was 28, 29. It affected you but I was sort of surprised how well I came through it. It was like: ‘Oh, it’s not that bad, is it? It doesn’t really matter.’
Gary Neville: So earlier in the season, you were having those doubts – not to the point that you did what I did and decided to quit – but what are you thinking?
Ryan Giggs: My thinking is: ‘What you going to do about it?’
Gary Neville: And what do you do?
Ryan Giggs: It’s just stupid things, like saying: ‘Right, I’m not going to have butter on my toast. I’m going to make sure I go to bed an hour earlier. I’m going to make sure I go home after every training session for a couple of weeks and rest my legs. I’m going to do extra running.’ There’s no alcohol, certainly. My weight doesn’t really fluctuate but I make sure I don’t eat late at night. It’s about making sure I’m right physically because mentally I’m okay.
Gary Neville: Did the 1,000th competitive game on Tuesday night mean anything?
Ryan Giggs: I don’t want to sound dismissive, that it didn’t matter [laughs] but, no, it didn’t. When I retire I’ll look back at it and I’m really proud of getting to 1,000 but it all built up to the Norwich game and I just wanted it over with. That doesn’t really matter to me, that stuff.
Gary Neville: You’ve done your coaching badges and are now doing your pro licence, so where do you see yourself in three years? Coaching?
Ryan Giggs: I think so. That’s why I’m doing the badges, to prepare myself as best I can. As a footballer, you don’t look too far ahead. So I’m going to have to change my mind-set when I finish. I’ll have to say to myself: ‘Where do you want to be in two or three years’ time?’ You have ideal scenarios, where you might be going on the coaching staff at United to learn how everything works at a football club and then take a manager’s job.
Gary Neville: Man United is obviously the dream job. I don’t want to pin that on you but can there be another job for Ryan Giggs other than managing this club?
Ryan Giggs: Yeah, I think there can. We’ve talked about it on the pro licence course, that ideally you want to get that bit of experience, two or three years on the pitch coaching, organising. That’s your apprenticeship. Now that might not happen. I might finish and get offered a decent manager’s job.
Gary Neville: Would you take it?
Ryan Giggs: Well, you don’t know until it’s offered and see what your alternatives are. Ideally, you would want your apprenticeship, like you do as a footballer before you get into the first team.
Gary Neville: Why do you think more players haven’t done what you do and played into their late 30s?
Ryan Giggs: I don’t know. I think there’s definitely a lot of things in my favour. If I was playing at another club, would I still be playing now? I honestly don’t know. There’s so much going for me in that I’ve got great facilities, it’s brilliant going into Carrington, training every day, I haven’t had to move house, I’ve got the same manager, I’m at Man United, you’ve got good players around you, I don’t play every week. There are so many things that go in my favour. I quickly got my head round not playing every week – and some players don’t. I knew it was for the greater good really because I knew it would benefit me playing every 10 days.
Gary Neville: You’ve achieved almost everything. In the next 30, 40 years what would achievement be for you? What would give you satisfaction, completion?
Ryan Giggs: I don’t think there is anything. There’s never been completion in my football career because I’ve always been striving for that next thing. You listen to people who have finished and nothing replaces playing, but I’m still excited about not having to put my body through what I’ve put it through. And not feeling the disappointment that I feel. I mean, I’ve got mates who are gutted (after Tuesday’s defeat by Real Madrid) but they don’t feel what I feel. They’re gutted, they’re mad Man United fans. But I’m gutted and it affects your life and it affects your mood for the next two or three days. I’m not going to miss that. I’m not going to miss putting my body through it, the sacrifices you make. My lad comes home every day and wants to play football and sometimes I’ve got to say: ‘No, I can’t. I’ve got to relax.’ I can’t wait for all that sort of stuff to end. But, professionally, I think it’s got to be something within football, something that’s going to satisfy you. But what that will be, I really don’t know.