Ryan Giggs: The ultimate team man but not the greatest
He may be a little greyer and a yard slower but Giggs is still absolute class
"His contribution to Manchester United is obvious and overwhelming in equal amounts. Originally an out-and-out lightning quick winger winger, he has since learnt to adapt to an offensive playmaking role within the side, blending skill, movement and experience with football intelligence."
Ryan Giggs has been around longer than the Premier League and won just about every club honour up for grabs. But where does he rank alongside the greatest United legends and where was the one area he let others down, asks Paul Moon.
Ryan Joseph Giggs OBE (born 29 November 1973) is the most decorated player in English football history and a credit to the game. His incredible haul of 32 winners' medals include 11 Premier League wins and two Champions League titles, quite remarkable achievements. But where does he rank in the Manchester United hall of fame?
On the January 31 2011 he was named Manchester United's greatest ever player by a worldwide poll conducted by United's official magazine and website. Without wishing to sound churlish or attempting to devalue his marvellous achievements, the award sits somewhere between the sentimental and frivolous, as was his BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2009 by the way.
The reality is that the winner of the 'greatest player ever' category must surely rest between Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona, George Best and Denis Law. And that's without nominating Cristiano Ronaldo or Bryan Robson. That said, Giggs is the best 'clubman' United has ever had and some distance ahead of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane.
His contribution to Manchester United is obvious and overwhelming in equal amounts. Originally an out-and-out lightning quick winger winger, he has since learnt to adapt to an offensive playmaking role within the side, blending skill, movement and experience with football intelligence. His final ball has improved year on year and he has that unique ability to affect games and make a difference. One has also to pay homage the remarkable levels of fitness he still shows; let's not forget he's closer to his 40th birthday than his 30th.
The way he conducts himself on and off the pitch is similarly impeccable and in 20-years of playing football for his club he has never been sent off. In the days of over-zealous refereeing, that's no mean achievement.
It will surprise some that he actually signed on for archrivals Manchester City as a youth in 1985-87 but since then has spent his entire senior career at Manchester United where he holds the club record for competitive appearances and the club record for team trophies won by a player. Devout loyalty to a club is commendable and should be applauded but is it possible he would have become an even better player had he transferred abroad?
He is a player who clearly looks after himself but paradoxically this approach has produced the one stain on his career to date! It is something of a disappointment that he has not always shown the necessary resolve to play regularly for his country. Since 1990 he has too often missed international commitments through alleged injuries, only to somehow recover in time for his next club fixture. In his long career he has averaged just three games per year, playing a total of 64 games for Wales. Of course Wales have never been involved in a major tournament during that period but still; he's missed far too many games.
I'm sure one day he will manage Wales and inherit a similar set of circumstances. I'm sure he'll find that just as frustrating as the likes of John Toshack and Mark Hughes did as regards him.
The pace has gone a little and those marauding runs down the wing are few and far between these days but his influence within this youngish United side is there for all to see. United may yet win the league title, the FA Cup and the Champions League, just like they did back in 1999. No-one would begrudge Giggs a second treble of that nature...
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