FanCast columnist Stephen Darwin looks back at Ryan Giggs glittering Man Utd career and agrees with Rio Ferdinand's assessment that he maybe the greatest player of his generation.
If ever there was a player deserving of a tribute I would expect Ryan Giggs to be a name on the tip of many a tongue. The long serving Manchester United midfielder has seen it all at the Theatre of Dreams, demonstrating an unrivalled dedication and loyalty that stretches to an incredible seventeen years.It may well have been a completely different story had the Blue half of Manchester managed to fight off the lure of their fierce City rivals. It may surprise you to understand that Giggs was actually part of the Manchester City School of Excellence as a youngster, and but for a visit from Sir Alex Ferguson himself on Giggs' 14th birthday, it may well have been City that benefited from more than a decade of the wingers brilliance.
Giggs personifies the style of the old-fashioned winger and the Welshman's name is often uttered in the same breath as legends including George Best and Johan Cruyff. Comparisons to such masters of the beautiful game are by no means an over-exaggeration and Giggs' has been terrorising Premier League defences with his direct running for as long as my memory serves.
The Cardiff born Welsh wizard recently claimed his 100th league goal for United in the 4-1 victory over Derby, and his contribution to the enormous success witnessed at Old Trafford is nothing short of remarkable. During an extraordinary career at club level, Giggs has notched up 9 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 6 Community Shields, an Intercontinental Cup, a Super Cup, oh and let's not forget a Champions League. Add to that the notably impressive achievement of winning the PFA Young Player of the Year Award twice, (a feat matched only by Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney) and you begin to see why Giggsy is held in such high regard at Old Trafford.
On the international stage, Giggs has been an influential part of the Welsh national team since making his debut in 1991 and went on to win 64 caps. Despite the honour of captaining his country, Giggs endured a somewhat frustrating international career and was unable to showcase his talent at the finals of either a World Cup or European Championship. I'm sure every Englishman with a knowledge of the beautiful game will have wondered what might have been had Giggs decided to chose England as his country of international descent. Interestingly enough, Giggs actually captained England at schoolboy level and I can't help but continue to dwell on the one that got away and that problematic headache of left midfield that might just have been avoided.
It would have been easy for Giggs to hide away in the shadow of expectation since his escalation to a true United great, although the Welshman has never ceased to impress, and continues to claim a legitimate place in the United squad. There are inevitable arguments that claim Giggs' advancing age means he is too old to be cutting it with the array of young starlets at Old Trafford. It's fair to say that United do have sufficient cover on the left (with the likes of Nani, Anderson and Cristiano Ronaldo) but even at the tender age of 34, United fans are guaranteed nothing less than a committed and typically polished performance from Giggs. Not only a master of the left hand side; Giggs' versatility across the midfield and in a more advanced attacking position has often provided a valuable asset to Sir Alex Ferguson over the years.
Arsenal fans won't thank me for mentioning 'that goal,' but even the foremost of United detesters would hold their hands up and salute what was arguably the greatest goal ever scored in FA Cup history. That memorable strike aside, Giggs has managed 143 goals in total for Manchester United, an outstanding tally for a predominantly wide midfielder. By featuring in 737 matches for the Premier League giants, the 34 year-old seasoned professional looks more than equipped to surpass none other than Sir Bobby Charlton in achieving the notable accolade of record all-time appearances for Manchester United.
Rio Ferdinand described Giggs as 'probably the best player of our generation.' So does the United veteran truly merit such distinguished praise? Well his genius on the pitch is unquestionable, but credit must also be given for Giggs' professional attitude off it. A considerably private man, Giggs has rarely added fuel to tabloid fire and leads a relatively low key celebrity life. In recent times, Giggs has become a UNICEF representative and was honoured with an OBE for services to football in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
I'll leave you to decide your stance on the credibility of Giggs being labelled the best player of our generation. Although what is clear is that even though he may not possess the blistering pace of yesteryear, Giggs has a seemingly innate ability to perform consistently well on the big stage – even to this day. Retirement can't be too far round the corner, yet Sir Alex continues to aptly demonstrate that Giggs is a worthy part of Manchester United's enduring quest for trophies.