Giggs determined to be ready
Ryan Giggs has admitted preparing for matches as a fringe member of Manchester United's squad has its own problems.
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Gone are the days when Giggs was an automatic presence in Sir Alex Ferguson's starting line-up.
Indeed, so infrequently was the 39-year-old selected at the start of the season, there were claims he might call time on his stellar career this summer.
Ferguson met such observations with a typically withering response.
Indeed, over Christmas, Giggs has been a key man for United, impressing in his substitute role at Swansea, then against Newcastle and Wigan as the Red Devils maintained their seven-point advantage in the Premier League title race.
Yet the mere fact Giggs completed the full 90 minutes at the DW Stadium on New Year's Day almost certainly means he will not be involved in Saturday's FA Cup third-round tie at West Ham.
And then United only have two games in a fortnight, meaning Giggs' appearances may be restricted once more.
"It can be difficult," Giggs said. "It's just a case of looking after your fitness and making sure you're sharp and not peaking in the middle of the week when you need to be ready for a Saturday game.
"It is tough when you get yourself ready for a Wednesday game, don't play and then you have to get yourself ready for a Saturday game.
"But a lot of players are in that position. We have a big squad and you're not going to play every game.
"Together with Paul Scholes, I probably play fewer matches than a lot of the players but we know we have to be ready when we're called upon."
Giggs offers far more than just his playing ability though.
As United try to secure a record 20th league title, while at the same time balancing the competing interests of the FA Cup and the Champions League, the veteran Welshman's experience in the dressing room is invaluable.
"My role has changed over the last five or six years," Giggs said.
"I'm an experienced player and an elder statesman. It's a position I'm quite comfortable with.
"I am helping the young players and whilst I am not starting as many games but it's about being ready when I do."
Ferguson has already promised changes at Upton Park and it is quite conceivable he could select a completely different starting line-up to the one he picked at Wigan.
Darren Fletcher for instance has not started a game since December 1 after being involved in three of the previous four.
Shinji Kagawa needs additional match practice after his knee injury, while Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are also searching for full fitness after their early-season absences.
With Anders Lindegaard and Alex Buttner also due a game, Ferguson could switch half his team without even thinking whether Wayne Rooney is ready to return following the knee injury he sustained at Swansea on December 22.
Not that the United boss will be taking it easy.
The FA Cup remains a special competition in his eyes and the fact his side have not won it since 2004 has become something of an irritation.
And a West Ham team likely to include Joe Cole represent a formidable obstacle given the Red Devils have lost on three of their last six visits to Upton Park.