The moment Ryan Giggs took one wrong option in a recent game against Aston Villa, he and a television audience across the globe were immediately reminded of the fire still burning inside his Manchester United manager. The producer cut to a purple-faced Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline, threatening to burst several blood vessels at once as he made his displeasure known in what lip-readers would doubtless confirm was the choicest Glaswegian vernacular.
Last week Giggs was just about able to smile at the incident, though the word "rueful" came to mind. "It's nothing new, I've had that since I was 12 or 13," Giggs said. "I'm not going to say I don't take any notice but I'm used to it. He's entitled to tell me if I play the wrong pass. And he does. Has he mellowed? A bit. But not a lot. The amount of time he's been manager, you're bound to mellow a little bit. You still want to track your runners and get back in position, otherwise he'll tell you."
Uncomfortable as the manager's famed hair-ire treatment can be, recipients would be more concerned if they felt he no longer cared. Such eruptions this season, amid the often marvellous football United have played, only confirm how close they are coming to achieving something notable again after two years in Chelsea's shadow. Were they to maintain a lead at the top of the table for another four months, Giggs would win an incredible ninth Premiership title, 14 years after his first, when he was still a teenager.
"That would be something special obviously, though it's something I don't think of. You don't think about personal milestones while you're playing. You look back on those when you've finished playing." Which of the previous eight has given him most satisfaction? "Obviously there was the first one, as we'd waited so long and Liverpool had dominated for so long. To win that was a relief. But they're all great because it's such a hard League to win. Chelsea have raised the bar in the last two years with their consistency and the money they've been able to spend. So it will be very satisfying if we do it. But there's a long way to go."