Ryan Giggs: Tearing Teams Apart Since 1990!

In my opinion the word ‘Legend’ is used far too often these days to describe certain footballers, but one name that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as the word is Ryan Giggs.

Giggs holds the all time appearance record for Manchester United and is the most decorated player in English football history. He has won 12 Premier League winner’s medals, four F.A Cup winner’s medals, three League Cup winner’s medals and two Champions League winner’s medals. He has a medal collection that any footballer would be envious of, which of course everybody already knows about.

Giggs of course made his debut in the 1990/91 season and has been in the first team ever since giving United 20 years of memories and service. It’s been said before but I believe no other player will ever achieve again what he has done when you take into account the way modern-football is today and how often players move clubs.

There are two goals that spring to mind when I think of Giggs.

The first was early in his career as a raw and unpredictable eighteen year old against Spurs at White hart lane. At lightning speed Giggs put the ball around Dean Austin, then nutmegged Jason Cundy, rounded goalkeeper Ian Walker and placed the ball into the net. Comparisons with the late George Best were quick to follow in the tabloids and it was clear to see why.

The second goal that springs to mind was scored in what I consider to be the greatest game of football I have ever seen, purely for the sheer drama and incidents involved, it was the 1999 FA Cup semi final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park.

In a game that was poised evenly at 1-1 due to a disallowed Anelka goal, a Roy Keane sending off, and a last minute penalty save by Peter Schmeichel, from a Dennis Bergkamp spot kick, Giggs received a misplaced pass from Patrick Vieria on the half way line in extra time. The majority of players at that stage of a gladiator-like battle would have been happy to keep possession and bring others into play. Giggs of course wasn’t interested in doing that!

His natural instinct was to run at pace directly at the Arsenal defence causing panic amongst their players, after weaving left and right Giggs managed to progress in to the penalty area with still a lot of work to do, his finish was as good as you will ever see and the only place he could have but the ball, high into the roof of the net.

As the Arsenal player fell to their knees in disbelief Giggs was clearly feeling the same as he ran bear chested along the touch line with his shirt swinging around his head in one of the more memorable goal celebrations our great club has ever seen. The rest is history.

It’s amazing to think that back in 2003 certain sections of the Old Trafford crowd booed and jeered Giggs when he went through a dip in form, some supporters are very fickle. It obviously played on his mind at the time, because this was the same season that we played Arsenal at home in a F.A Cup match.

Giggs was played through by David Beckham who took the ball around Jens Lehmann and with a empty goal in front of him only had to kick the ball into the net to score. With the United fans already celebrating and anticipating what should have been a routine finish, somehow our winger shot over the bar into the Stretford End much to the shock of the Old Trafford faithful.

The one thing that I have always admired and amazed me about Giggs is his ability to reinvent his style of play each season. Over the last couple of seasons Sir Alex has realised that Giggs has lost a yard or two of pace, but for what he has lost in pace, he has made up for in his head.

Giggs knows this himself but has been in the game long enough to know that an experienced football brain and a good level of fitness can win you games, this is something that Teddy Sheringham also had.

Giggs said in a interview a while back that players these days have raw talent coached out of them when coming through the ranks at football clubs because coaches and managers want you to play a certain style of team play.

This comment makes sense to me and got me thinking, you could not imagine today’s young players scoring a goal that Giggs did at White Hart Lane back in 1991? Players are now coached to retain possession so I can see why a player that could jeopardise loosing possession could be frowned upon.

His best games last season came when he played in a central role in midfield in the Champions league home and away games against Chelsea, and in the same fixture in the premier league. He has also played the same position to good effect against other big premier league teams.

This shows how his game has changed, Sir Alex knows that Giggs can have a ‘Scholes’ effect on certain games as we seen so many times last season dictating the pace of games, spraying passes, assisting and scoring goals. His ability to also track back and defend is also key to his important role in the team.

Recent tabloid stories have damaged his image, but I like many will only judge the man on what he has done for us on the pitch.

I believe that the curtain will come down on the illustrious career of Ryan Giggs at the end of May 2012 when this coming season is due to end. Whenever he does decide to make that decision a true legend of the game will finally hang up his boots and will forever be part of the history of Manchester United.

There is one question though that has got me thinking recently and that is: How will we honour and remember Giggs’ legacy?

I have spoken with many United fans about this when travelling to away games and proposed that we retire the no. 11 shirt in his honour. Many reds are quick to respond negatively to this idea and say that if we did this with all the legends we have had at Old Trafford we would have no shirt numbers left!

But my response to the negativity is that Giggs is a unique exception. He has played for twenty years in our first team playing at the highest level, has become our all time leading appearance record holder and is the most decorated player in English football. Could we do a worse thing than retire the no 11 in his honour?

By @kevinashford7