A lot has been said and a lot will be said about Ryan Giggs, a player who has participated in each of the Premier League seasons since its inception and more astonishingly scored in every one of them.
Today I join my voice with a multitude of others in tribute to this 38-year-old player, the most decorated footballer player in British history, a man with supreme devotion to his club, a player with a single minded determination and truly, a ‘Legend‘.
Born on the 29th of November 1973 , Ryan Joseph Wilson, as he was christened, was earmarked for greatness since his childhood. Playing in the schoolboy team for Manchester City, United’s arch rivals, Ryan, was regularly watched by local newsagent and Old Trafford steward Harold Wood.
This led to an invitation for his team Salford boys to play against United under-15s. A match Sir Alex himself viewed from his office window, an effort not in vain, as this 13-year-old boy ran riot across the United back four, scoring a hat trick in the process.
A performance so impressive, that Sir Alex himself turned up at the Giggs household on his 14th birthday, to persuade Ryan to join Manchester United’s youth setup. Unable to say no to the great Scotsman, this young phenomenon put pen to paper to become a United player.
Two years of development and improvement of technical skill followed, during which he captained England’s under-16s against that of Germany in 1989.
Awarded his first start in the Manchester derby of 1991, the 17-year-old gladly repaid the faith bestowed on him, by scoring the only goal of the game, a sign of things about to follow.
A fight for his place in the first team ensued, for the position down the left wing, with the 19-year-old Lee Sharpe, however some brilliant performances coupled with an amazing consistency ensured that Giggsy (as he’s called by his team mates) cemented his place on the left wing.
The careful nurturing of the Manchester United youth setup, of the raw talent that Giggs was, when he signed up, into a finished product, instilling in him Manchester United’s famed never-say-die attitude, paid rich dividends, as Giggs made himself indispensable to the team through the years.
Tearing down that left flank, twisting and turning, leaving many a defender flat on his backside was what Giggs did. The ball magically glued to his feet, Giggs was and still is such a joy to watch. An amazing testimonial to his talent was given by another Manchester United magician of yesteryears, George Best, who was quoted, “One day they might even say that I was another Ryan Giggs.”
The first player to win two consecutive PFA Young Player of the year awards, Giggs went on to become one of the best left wingers in the world.
An integral part of the treble winning season of 1999, Ryan Giggs was a player to have delivered United from many a tight spot, most notably in the Champions league final at the Nou Camp, when his scuffed shot was driven into the goal by Teddy Sheringham, leading to a United revival, and one of the most famous comebacks in history.
It was a year when he scored in-arguably, his finest goal of all time. A game against Wenger’s Arsenal, a semi-final replay, where, on intercepting a misplaced pass by Vieira, Giggs embarked on a mazy run across the Arsenal half, leaving behind six players, two of them on their backside and scoring into the roof of the net. This a feat performed against one of the best defences in Europe at the time is just one example of his brilliance.
Gradually losing his pace as his body aged, Giggs transformed himself into an intelligent midfielder, playing the role of a passer, a creator of goals, with an occasional show of flair. He still plays with the same enthusiasm as when he was 16.
A firm believer in yoga to keep his body healthy, Giggs is a kind of a player who could play and win matches for the red half of Manchester even now. A student of the game, he is now on the way to earning his UEFA coaching batches and being certified as a coach. Quite a pleasing fact, as even after his marvelous career as a player gets completed at United, he could stay on and continue to share the extensive knowledge of the game garnered through 22 years of his career with the new generation of players coming through the ranks, the future Red Devils.
In today’s day and age, looking at the Anelka's and Ibrahimovic's of the world, a player playing for one club, throughout his career, spanning 22 years and playing more than 900 matches is truly awe-inspiring. Playing for so long, without any contractual tantrums, without any transfer requests is truly the mark of a legend.
Having won 12 Premier League winner’s medals, four FA Cup winner’s medals, three League Cup winner’s medals and two Champions League winner’s medals, he still displays the same exuberance and joy in his game as he did when he first started in the Manchester derby.
I end my tribute to this great player, this legend, by quoting one of the most popular posters displayed in tribute to him, ' Giggs: Tearing you apart since 1991.'
image: © Paolo Camera