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By ESPN Staff

Giggs can set all-time appearance record - Fergie

Sir Alex Ferguson has tipped Ryan Giggs to smash Manchester United's all-time appearance record.

Giggs will move alongside Bill Foulkes in second on the list when he turns out in tomorrow's Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

It will be the 688th time Giggs has played for United, leaving him 71 behind Sir Bobby Charlton's club best.

With a current contract in place which is not due to expire until 2008 and the 33-year-old's form suggesting he might get another extension beyond that, Charlton's mark is clearly within the Welshman's capabilities.

'Ryan is 71 games behind Sir Bobby and it is definitely a realistic target to reach that figure,' said Ferguson.

'Maybe he will have to tailor his game and play infield sometimes because for the last 15 years he has been up and down that touchline, which is incredible.

'I don't think anyone else is capable of doing that for so long in the Premier League. I have seen a lot of wide players come and go during that time but he is still there.'

Not only is Giggs still appearing for United on a regular basis, he is also having a major influence on the outcome of their games.

It was the Cardiff-born star's header that proved to be the match-winner against Benfica on Wednesday and Ferguson senses Giggs can have a similar impact against City tomorrow in what will be his 23rd derby-day appearance.

'I can always sense when he is coming to the boil,' said Ferguson.

'Like a lot of players who depend on speed and dribbling ability, they cannot perform for long periods.

'But when he gets into those pockets of form we know he is capable of, Ryan is devastating.

'I just sensed in the Middlesbrough game last Saturday, he was coming back again. Now he is ready to produce good stuff for us I hope.'

Ferguson suggested there would be a willingness to offer Giggs a one-year contract extension when the time was right, although club officials later played down the Scot's assertion that he `thought' Edwin van der Sar - whose current deal expires in the summer - had already been offered one.

With Park Ji-sung almost ready to return after three months on the sidelines following ankle surgery, Giggs may be a less frequent presence in United's starting line-ups over the Christmas period as Ferguson looks to ensure his main players remain fresh for the crucial second half of the season.

Having taken advantage of Chelsea's inactivity last week by beating Middlesbrough to open up a six-point advantage at the Premiership summit, United are now looking to widen the gap even further ahead of Sunday's eagerly-anticipated head-to-head between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger at Stamford Bridge.

Bizarrely, Ferguson conceded he 'probably' would watch the key London derby but only if it did not clash with Setanta Sports' broadcast of Celtic's Scottish Premier League trip to Dunfermline.

Ever the master of mindgames, the United chief preferred not to expand too much on the psychology of his side charging nine points clear, especially as the gap could have closed completely by the time his team face West Ham on Sunday week.

Yet he did accept it would take Chelsea into unknown territory during the all-conquering Mourinho era.

'It is a valid point that Chelsea have never been in that situation,' said Ferguson.

'Yes, they have a lot of experience but nonetheless, they have never been there.

'It is always better to have the points than the games. Yes, you can win games in hand, as we have done in the past, but they still have to be navigated. I am not saying it is a great advantage but it is an advantage.'

Ferguson tipped City youngster Micah Richards to start in central midfield as the Blues chase their first Old Trafford win since 1974, an indication he expects the visitors to pack the midfield and play on the break.

It is a tactic which has been used quite often by United's opponents in the past, although, with his team in such dominant form recently, Ferguson is confident it can be overcome.

'The football we have been playing recently is as good as anything that we have seen over the past few years,' he said.

'To win the league playing like that must be a great motivation for them all.'