Ryan Giggs – United’s greatest player (Part I)
“Longevity always comes into play in these things, and Ryan’s been around for more time than any other player” says Sir Alex Ferguson to Inside United, as Giggs has been voted Manchester United’s best player ever. (I confess that I voted Giggs as United’s greatest player)
Giggs is the most decorated player in English football history and he also holds the club record for competitive appearances, and the club record for team trophies won by a player (e.g. 11 Premier League winner’s medals, four FA Cup winner’s medals, three League Cup winner’s medals, two Champions League winner’s medals).
Giggs is the first player in UEFA Champions League history to have scored in 11 successive seasons; he was elected into the PFA Team of the Century in 2007, the Premier League Team of the Decade, in 2003, as well as the FA Cup Team of the Century. The Welshman is also the only player to have played and scored in every season of the Premier League.
In addition, Giggs was inducted into the English Hall of Fame in 2005, was appointed an OBE in 2007, was inducted into the English Hall of Fame in 2005 and named as BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009.
As a child, playing for Deans FC, Giggs impressed one of City’s scouts and was signed up by Manchester City’s School of Excellence. The Welshman continued to play for the Salford-based team, as he captained the team that won the Granada Schools Cup competition at Anfield in 1987.
In the 1986 Christmas period, Giggs was offered a trial at Manchester United thanks to the recommendations given by a United steward and local newsagent, Harold Wood, who spoke personally to Alex Ferguson about the young prospect. Giggs played in a match for Deans FC against a United Under-15s side and scored a hat trick, with Ferguson watching from his office window.
In his autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson recalled:
“When I saw Ryan in that game he gave one of those rare and priceless moments that make all the sweat and frustration and misery of management worthwhile. I shall always remember my first sight of him, floating over the pitch at the Cliff so effortlessly that you would have sworn his feet weren’t touching the ground.’
On his 14th birthday anniversary, Giggs received a surprise home-visit from Alex Ferguson and United scout Joe Brown. Ryan signed for a record non-professional transfer fee of £350,000, which is still the highest ever, under the name Ryan Wilson. He changed his surname at the age of 16, when his mother remarried.
Giggs turned professionally at 17, as he was constantly described by various sources to be the finest prospect in English football since George Best in the 60’s.
Giggs made his League debut against Everton at Old Trafford on 2 March 1991, as a substitute for in a 2–0 defeat. He remained active with the youth system and captained the team, made up of many of “Fergie’s Fledglings”, to an FA Youth Cup triumph in 1992.
As he broke into the first squad at only 17, Giggs became the youngest member of the United first team squad and turned to older players like Bryan Robson for advice. Ryan collected his first piece of silverware on 12 April 1992 as United defeated Nottingham Forest in the League Cup Final, after he had assited Brian McClair to score the only goal of the game. At the end of the season, Ryan was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.
By the start of the 1992–93 season, Giggs established himself as United’s first choice left winger and was considered Britain’s hottest prospect for the future.
Giggs is credited as playing a key role in United’s first top division title win for 26 years. Alex Ferguson was very protective of him, refusing to allow the young hotshot to be interviewed until he turned 20.
In the “Ryan Giggs True Red – The Life of a Legend” documentary (a must-see documentary), the Welshman confesses that Sir Alex Ferguson caught him at a party and gave him a hairdryer treatment, remembering that United’s manager was “red-faced with rage, like some uncontrollable force of nature.”
In the 1993-1994 season, United won the double and Giggs was one of their key players alongside Eric Cantona.
Giggs was reported to have “single-handedly revolutionized football’s image” when he appeared as teenager “with pace to burn, a bramble patch of black hair bouncing around his puppy pop star face, and a dazzling, gluey relationship between his impossibly fleet left foot and a football.” (Dan Jones, thislondon.co.uk)
He was once described as the “Premiership’s First Poster Boy” and was hailed as the first football star to capture the public imagination in a way unseen since the days of George Best. Both Best and Bobby Charlton used to describe Giggs as their favorite young player, and Best once said “One day they might even say that I was another Ryan Giggs.”
Paul Ince admitted:
“George Best in his time was a wizard, but Ryan can do exactly the same – they are comparable definitely.”
Giggs is known worldwide for his electric pace, elastic dribbling and eye for a killer pass, not to mention those memorable goals. (Every football fan on the planet has seen his solo effort against Arsenal in the replay of the 1999 FA Cup semifinal)
The 1994 – 1995 season was a frustrating one for Ryan as he was mostly sidelined for injury and United lost both the Premier League title (on the final day of the season, due to failing to beat West Ham) and the FA Cup (losing to Everton 1-0). At the end of the season, United sold Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis and began the following season without remarkable signings, except the addition of Andy Cole. Yet, Alex Ferguson propelled a couple of youngsters in the first team: Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Paul Scholes. Giggs had a marvelous 1995-1995 season, as he played a vital part in United’s double.
The following season, Giggs’ reputation became continental as he was the engine of the United team that reached the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League, only to lose to Borussia Dortmund. Giggs’ performances were outstanding, as Del Piero famously said: “
This is embarrassing to say but I have cried twice in my life watching a football player; the first one was Roberto (Baggio) and the second was Ryan Giggs.”
After a trophy-less 1997-1998 season, Giggs’ form was excellent (despite missing a lot of games due to injury), as he scored an extra-time goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final, a 90-minute equaliser at Old Trafford in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League semi-final against Juventus and setting up that equalising goal scored by Sheringham in the final against Bayern Munich after a David Beckham corner. Becks delivered another corner two minutes later and Solskjaer scored in the last kick of the game. United managed to win the famous Treble that year.
Ferguson confessed later that:
‘The strain Ryan put on the opposition was one of the factors that steadily drained them in the second half,’ .
Here is a video of some of Ryan Giggs’s best moments:
TO BE CONTINUED…
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