Giggs Glorious Giggs!


Last week I turned thirty. But football never really made me feel old. Not until now.

Why now?

Well the evergreen Ryan Giggs has decided to retire as a footballer.

I started following football back in 1989 and Giggs made his senior debut at Manchester United in 1990. So I have watched the very beginning of Giggs career and watched his final performance earlier in the month.

Now I have obviously seen quite a few players careers come and go now but as I said earlier, Giggs was an ever present. I always thought, I can’t be old, Ryan Giggs is still pulling on a Man Utd shirt and doing his thing in the English Premier League (EPL) or in the Champions League.

Back in his earliest days Ryan was a wizard on the left wing, that would burst past defenders with ease using his blistering pace or his tricky skills. He was the poster boy for the EPL in its formative years. The young Cardiff born star was often compared to George Best, the ultimate compliment for any Man Utd winger.

But his manager, the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, was very keen to keep the Welshman out of any trouble and away from any controversies. If that meant sending out club spies to look out for the youngster then so be it. In fact Fergie was known to take looking after and out for his prize asset to the extremes. Once the boss charged round to Lee Sharpe’s house to confront Sharpe and Giggsy before they left for a late night party!

Fergie’s will to keep Giggs on the straight and narrow seemed to work. For years the United number eleven would rarely be seen in the papers and he would seem reluctant to give the media many interviews. Instead he preferred standing in the shadows and letting Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo to take the headlines.

The quiet, good family man persona would come to a staggering halt when the papers would reveal that it appeared Ryan Giggs wasn’t the cleaner than clean gentleman he had been portraying. It was suggested he had had a few affairs and that he had done his up most to keep it out the newspapers.

But that unsavory saga didn’t really darken the Giggs reputation for too long. Why? Because he remained a true, class act on the football pitch.

He went on to represent Manchester United 963 times, scoring 168 goals. That career spanned over two decades, spending all of those  twenty-four seasons at Old Trafford. Winning thirteen league titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, nine Community Shields, a Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup, a World Club Cup and two Champions League wins.

Giggs would also won a PFA Player of the Year award and was also crowned Sports Personality of the year in 2009.

The goal Ryan would score against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi final will go down in history as one of the best ever. A tired miss-pass from Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira would find its way to Giggs inside United’s half. The wide man would then surge into the oppositions half. He would shrug off a Vieira lunge and a tackle from Lee Dixon. As he burst into the penalty area Giggs would sail passed Martin Keown and got away from Dixon again. The United hero would then still have enough energy to rifle a shot over and past David Seaman at his near post! It was a wonderful goal. The usually calm Giggs would race away from his teammates, take his shirt off and swing it wildly over his head. That goal sparked the real thought of a historic treble for Man United that season.

His international career wasn’t as glittering. The star was capped sixty-four times, scoring twelve times. He, like Best, would never reach a major finals. Many would point to his United performances and ask ‘why can’t he do that for his country?’ But in fairness to Giggs he did turn his back on a potential England career to realise his dream of representing the country of his birth. The least said about the Team GB 2012 Olympic team the better in my opinion.

As the years went by Giggs slowed and that meant he was no longer suited for the wing. But unlike so many other wingers out there, Ryan had a keen footballing eye and a brain that made it easier for him to play off a striker and then in the middle of the park. His composed touch and ability to make a great forward pass saw the once pacey winger play as a central midfielder in some of United’s bigger matches in the past five years.

Sir Alex Ferguson always gushed when talking about Giggs. For him Ryan represented the ideal footballer. He was smart, consistent and loyal. The forty year old has been the elder statesman for Man United for more than a decade now and he was always a player the younger pros would look up to and learn from.

But alas time catches up with us all. Last season Ryan Joseph Giggs only managed to make twenty two performances. The least he has made since the two in his debut season at Old Trafford. Another amazing thing about Giggs was his outstanding fitness record, I can’t remember any serious injuries in his career, in fact this season was his only full season he managed to appear in less than thirty games! That said, in the last sixteen tie against Olympiacos in the Champions League, the Man Utd veteran turned in his last masterclass and helped turn around a two goal deficit.

Like Bobby Charlton before him, Ryan Giggs represents a golden generation of Manchester United success. He lives and breathes everything that the ‘Red Devils’ stand for.

His consistent class has been unequalled in the Premier League era. His loyalty was astonishing, he turned down huge moves to Serie A to remain at United. His versatility and skills always made him a joy to watch and one of the first names on any Man United teamsheet in the last two decades.

Ryan Giggs was always a player I liked to watch. Never my favourite but there or there abouts.

As he joins Louis van Gaal’s coaching team I wish him all the best and thank him for the memories.

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