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Giggs as good as the best

Giggs is the most decorated player in English football. (GETTY IMAGES)

By John McAuley

Wales two, Belgium nil occupies a special place in Ian Rush's heart.

It was the game where the Liverpool legend broke the Welsh goalscoring record and cemented his place as his country's most prolific marksman. It was also the match where Ryan Giggs announced his arrival on the international scene.

"Ryan's first goal was a great strike against Belgium," describes Rush, who scored 28 goals in 73 appearances for The Dragons. "We got a free-kick outside the box and Gary Speed was going to take it, but Ryan said he wanted it and put the ball down.

"I gave him the go-ahead and he curled it into the net. It was a brilliant free-kick and showed Ryan was very mature for his age. It gave him that bit of confidence to push on."

Giggs has certainly developed since that night at Cardiff's National Stadium in 1993. Now in his 19th season at Manchester United, the midfielder is the most decorated player in English football history, winning 10 league titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and two Champions League trophies in a glittering career.

He has found a new lease of life this campaign, converted to a central schemer by Sir Alex Ferguson, and has been rewarded with a contract extension, keeping him at Old Trafford past this season. Even at 35, there seems to be no stopping the man who's worn the red of United more than any other in their history.

"He's up there with the best," says Rush. "People talk about George Best being the greatest, but you look at how many years [Sir] Bobby Charlton and Ryan have done and it tells its own story.

"Even when he made his debut for Wales at 17 you knew he was always going to be special. He's a quiet lad and does his talking on the pitch, which is what I like about him. He's done really well to be awarded a new contract and I'm really happy for him."

Rush feels his compatriot offers the perfect example to United's newest batch of youngsters and admits Ferguson's man-management has been key to the Welshman's longevity.

"The way Ferguson has looked after him has been incredible because he knows when to play him and when to leave him out. And I noticed against Derby in the FA Cup recently that when he plays, he leads by example.

"The young ones at the club will see him still working hard and follow his lead. He's a fantastic pro."