Ryan Giggs celebrates 40th birthday, how much longer can he play on?

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Many happy returns to Ryan Giggs as the Manchester United legend turned 40 years of age on Friday.

Just a few days after his sensational display for United as they demolished Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 in the UEFA Champions League, Giggs is still turning on the style for the Red Devils.

To put it into context, the Welsh winger made his debut for United in 1991 and 22 years later he has no immediate plans to retire.

But in one of several interviews he’s given to UK media to celebrate his landmark achievement, Giggs believes something innocuous will tell him when it’s time to hang up the boots.

“There will be some incident and I will feel different,” Giggs said. “I’m wary of that because as soon as you’ve felt that or let on that you felt that other can see it. But it’s not so much that as it is the way you feel within yourself. I’m still wanting to do well in every game and wanting to win trophies. My focus needs to be on that. Until I decide and until it’s the end of the season. ”

Giggs, 40, has played over 950 games for United and scored in every Premier League season since the league was founded in 1992-93. Earlier in the week my colleague Mike Prindiville (use link below to read his thoughts) used a vast number of superlatives to sum up Giggs’ career so far, so I thought I’d try and break it down and see how much longer he will actually play.

(MORE: The legend turns 40 this Friday, how long can Ryan Giggs go?)

He is the fourth oldest outfield player in the history of the PL as Teddy Sheringham, Kevin Phillips and Gordon Strachan have all played into their 40s. This season he has played 12 times for United and has only been on the losing side once as his invincibility and legendary status across the global game continues to grow.

If that’s even possible.

But none of that aforementioned over 40s have enjoyed anywhere near the success that Giggs has in his glittering career at United. After making his debut as a 17-year-old and being described by Sir Alex Ferguson as looking like a “crisp packet floating in the wind” when he used to effortlessly glide past full backs as a winger, Giggs has now re-invented himself as a central midfield player that can spray the ball about and use his vast experiences to unlock opposition defenses from deep-lying positions. He has won 13 PL titles, four FA Cups and two Champions League titles amongst many other personal accolades.

To give you an example of his influence on a game, take a look at Giggs’ passing chart (courtesy of Squawka) from the impressive win against Leverkusen in midweek when he played the full 90 minutes and orchestrated United’s resounding win from central midfield.

He’s still got it.

But with his coaching badges in place and helping David Moyes coach United whilst still playing, when should Giggsy hang up his boots and call it quits?

As he mentioned he will assess things on a yearly basis, as he has done at the end of every season in recent memory, and will sit down at the end of this campaign to see if he’ll play on. At this rate, Giggs is still contributing a making a big difference for United, so why couldn’t he carry on for a few more seasons?

Remarkably many thought Giggs’ career would be winding down over six years ago when he retired as captain of the Welsh national team. But unloading that burden of representing his national team has helped Giggs prolong his club career, plus he’s a big lover of Yoga… so that has something to do with it too.

Many believe Giggs should call it quits after this season as he begins to take a more prominent role behind the scenes at United as a coach and he should retire before he becomes too old and isn’t as influential on the pitch as he once was.

But if he can keep playing the way he is now and juggle coaching and playing for one of the world’s biggest clubs, Giggs should be allowed to decide when he steps down. Moyes said earlier this week that Giggs will tell him when he’s finished, not the other way round. Playing in central midfield, picking up the pieces and using delicate passing and vision that’s been refined over two decades means his physical fitness can decline and Giggs can still contribute meaningfully over the next few seasons. At least…

His wand of a left foot is still mesmerizing opposition defenses, long may that continue. In the past greats such as Sir Stanley Matthews played in the top flight until they were half a century old. Today’s game is perhaps much more physically demanding than the past, so that’s a big ask.

Happy Birthday Giggsy… can you make it to 50?

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”