Last updated : 27 December 2004 By editor

'Having to earn a new contract might seem tough on a man with eight Premiership medals, but it is having the desired effect on Ryan Giggs. Manchester United’s most decorated player had looked to be resting on his laurels for much of 2004, but a run of sparkling form has, perhaps not coincidentally, followed the board’s decision to offer him only a one-year deal.

Had Roman Abramovich not made Arjen Robben an offer he could not refuse to come to Chelsea, Giggs, 31, might be under even closer scrutiny as he seeks to extend his long association with United. Yesterday, though, he illuminated Old Trafford with a volleyed goal and the swaying runs that make him such a rare and cherished species.

Giggs, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, who chipped in with his seventh goal in as many appearances, are the United players doing the most to keep Sir Alex Ferguson’s team in touch with Chelsea and Arsenal at the top of the Barclays Premiership. Perhaps disorientated by his new role on the left, Wayne Rooney is a passenger and there was a moment just before half-time when he threatened to become a liability.

Accused of going to ground too easily by Tal Ben Haim, the teenager pushed the Israel captain in the face with the palm of his hand. Suddenly it was the big defender’s turn to crash to the floor. Even Sam Allardyce, the Bolton Wanderers manager, admitted that Ben Haim could be accused of play-acting, but he was also entitled to point out that Rooney had been living dangerously.'

Jaaskelainen made some good saves, most notably late on at the feet of Giggs. The winger said he should have scored from that one-on-one, but he atoned in the 89th minute when, from his dash, the ball fell to Scholes to shoot into the bottom corner from just outside the area. "The gaffer gave me a rest and, ever since then, I have been feeling great," Giggs said. Nothing to do with trying to earn a two-year extension to his contract, obviously.'