Manchester United visit Cardiff City Stadium for the first time on Sunday afternoon, though for one member of their squad it will be a timely homecoming. Forty years ago this week, at St David's hospital around a mile from the ground, Ryan Wilson was born, later to become famous as Ryan Giggs.
He was the son of a rugby league player and a standout performer from an early age in schools competitions, so it was fairly easy to predict a successful sporting future for young Giggs. What no one could have imagined was how good old Giggs would turn out to be. To be still at the same club 23 years after turning professional is remarkable. To be still in Manchester United's first-team plans at the age of 40 is phenomenal. When he finally stops playing, if he ever does, Giggs should consider donating his body to a museum.
"He's a specimen, an incredibly fit lad," David Moyes says, not even registering the absurdity of using the word lad to describe someone about to enter his fifth decade. "The Premier League has seen some outstanding players but because of his ability and his longevity Ryan has to be just about the best," the United manager says of the player who will be 40 on Friday. "If you conducted a poll among the players I would be surprised if Ryan didn't come out on top.
"Having seen him at close quarters and got to work with him these last few months I can't imagine how good he must have been in his prime. In a way I wonder if he has actually got better with maturity, the way he sees the game a bit more. It's great for us because he is someone we can fit in any time. We can use him as a midfield player, behind the striker, out wide, almost anywhere because of his intelligence.
"Ryan knows he isn't going to play in all the games at his age but he accepts that. He has made the first step into coaching and management and sometimes once you do that it becomes easy to decide you have had enough of playing.But Ryan doesn't look as if he is at that point yet, so who knows? He doesn't look like a 40-year-old man either.
"I felt I needed him at the start of the season for his experience and because I was just starting out here but he trained well, looked in good shape and played well. You only have to see him in training to know he is still a terrific player. Some of the stuff he does every day you just marvel at."
With an important win over Arsenal last time out taking United up to fifth and extending their unbeaten league sequence to five matches, Moyes admits he is starting to settle into his new job after a hectic first few weeks. "Every week I'm beginning to feel a bit more comfortable," he says. "That comes from winning and the team playing better and there are signs that they are starting to get a bit more rhythm and show a bit more confidence. The players are getting used to me and I'm beginning to understand them, so hopefully we will be able to go in the right direction. But Arsenal was only a start.
"We didn't play as well as I would have liked in the second half so there is still room for improvement. It is the same in Europe. I would like to see us play well for the whole 90 minutes. It is not enough to do it for 45 or 60 minutes; it has to be more. I came away from Real Sociedad feeling disappointed because that was a chance to put the group more or less to bed. As it is, we still need another win and [Bayer] Leverkusen will be really tough away from home."
One consequence of United still needing victories in Europe is that Moyes finds himself unable to give Wayne Rooney a rest in the Champions League fixtures that remain. The United manager did not have an issue with Rooney playing 160 minutes for England in the last two friendlies but recognises that even though the player is always prepared to give everything, he as manager must take the long view and make decisions for the good of the player and the team.
"We've all seen a Wayne Rooney we enjoy watching in recent weeks but we can't run him into the ground," Moyes says. "Generally speaking, he is a better player when he plays regularly but at the level he is, with the distances he is covering, it would be wrong if somewhere down the line we didn't look at it. We don't want his form to dip, so I'll try to give him a little time off if I get the opportunity. I don't think Wayne will have a problem with that. I think he trusts us to do the right things with him and make the call at the right time. He has played an awful lot of games."