Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs has struggled for form so far this season and with reports surfacing that talks over a new deal won’t begin until the end of the campaign, unusual for the two parties even on a ‘wait and see’ basis, could this really be his final season at Old Trafford?
Make no bones about it, Giggs is a legend of the game and the most decorated player ever in English football. While the term ‘legend’ may have been hijacked by the ‘banter’ brigade in recent times, for those of us that still remember it’s true meaning, before it was overused as a way to describe the latest Inbetweeners episode or a washed up ex-pro on Soccer AM, it’s not one that’s bandied about too freely.
Nevertheless, having featured in every Premier League season for the biggest and arguably most successful club in the land and with a trophy haul of with 12 Premier League winners’ medals, four FA Cup triumphs and being on the winning side in the Champions League twice, he has indisputably earned that tag.
He turns 39 at the end of November and while he is still involved top an extent, featuring in six of their 10 top flight games to date so far and a further three in other competitions and he played a delightful ball around the back four to set up Robin van Persie’s equaliser against FC Braga just last game in the Champions League; there is clearly life in the old dog yet.
However, while the club has a policy of only offering one-year deals to players over the age of 32, with Paul Scholes and Giggs often deciding at the end of the campaign whether they want to carry on for another year, there have been no talks about a new deal for the latter so far. Last term, a new one-year deal was decided back in December and was signed in February and Ferguson has been key to gauge whether he need to plan for their exits at least six-months in advance, but now the club are thought to be holding out until May at the earliest, which has prompted something of a re-think.
Imagining a United side without both Giggs and Scholes is unthinkable and both still have roles to play, even if their form and consistency may at times, understandably, be affected by their age. Ferguson still relies on them both in games of huge importance and Giggs has featured, presumably by design, in 25 league games in each of the last three seasons and he looks well on course to do so again this term.
That the club still relies on a 39-year-old is a tad embarrassing, considering the budget that they have at their disposal, but the lack of movement over a new deal would indicate that one of, maybe both parties have lingering doubts over his ability to cut it in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League and he looked off the pace against Chelsea and Liverpool, while he was substituted with score at 2-0 during the club’s 3-2 defeat to Tottenham at home.
Ferguson stated after the Capital One Cup game at Stamford Bridge last week: “I think in Ryan Giggs, we saw a player of unbelievable proportions, in terms of playing the 120 minutes at 39 years of age next month and it’s a credit to himself. It’s an example to every player on the pitch, even the Chelsea players.”
While his ability and evolution as a player over the years, nay generations, commands respect and serves as an example to all, just as Ferguson intimated, we shouldn’t let that detract from the debate over what he genuinely offers the side and in what role on the pitch these days. He looks destined to take up a coaching position after his retirement, but we wouldn’t want to see an unceremonious end to an illustrious career in the way that Gary Neville had.
To his credit, Giggs realises that his four league starts this term are not unfamiliar, given that he normally comes to the fore the more the campaign wears on: “It’s not a new thing for me, not getting in the team every week. It’s been happening a bit over a few years. I have got used to it. I don’t worry too much because I know that, come the business end of the season, I’ll be ready, I’ll be fit and the manager will use me.”
This time last season, Giggs had made just one start in the league, coming off the bench an additional five times and we should remember that he could still be feeling the effects of missing out on a full pre-season after he represented Team GB at this summer’s Olympic Games, skippering the side in process.
Knowing when to bow out at the top is a difficult matter to quantify and Scholes timed his prematurely last term, coming back to make a huge impact of the second half of last season and against Southampton this, but it remains to be seen whether Giggs can have quite the same influence that he has in years gone by.
Should Manchester United offer Giggs a new deal? Or should this season be his last?
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