Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs has been around longer than the Premier League and is the only player to have played in it and scored every season (so far). He has won just about every club honour up for grabs but where does he rank alongside the greatest United legends?
Ryan Joseph Giggs OBE (born 29 November 1973) is the most decorated player in English football history, and on the pitch, a credit to the game. His incredible haul of winners’ medals includes 13 Premier League wins and two Champions League titles and they are quite remarkable achievements. But where does he rank in the Manchester United hall of fame?
On 31 January 2011 he was named Manchester United's greatest ever player by a worldwide poll conducted by United's official magazine and website. Without attempting to devalue his achievements, the award sits foolishly and somewhere between the sentimental and frivolous, as was his BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2009.
The reality is that the winner of the 'greatest player ever' category must surely rest between Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona, George Best or Denis Law. And that is without nominating Cristiano Ronaldo or Bryan Robson. We accept that Giggs is one the best 'clubman' United has ever had alongside Paul Scholes and some distance ahead of Gary Neville and Roy Keane.
His contribution to Manchester United is obvious. 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 as he approaches his 40th birthday next month.
The way he conducts himself on the pitch is similarly impeccable and in 25-years of playing football for his club he has never been sent off. In the days of over-zealous refereeing, that is no mean achievement.
It will surprise some that he actually signed on for arch-rivals 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? We doubt it but we do not know for sure…
He is a player who clearly looks after himself but paradoxically this approach has produced the biggest stain on his playing career to date! It is something of a disappointment that he has not 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 miraculously recover in time for his next club fixture. In his long career he has averaged less than three games per year, playing just 64 games for Wales and whilst his country have never been involved in a major tournament during that period it has been a disgrace that he missed so many games. This situation was made worse by misrepresentations that surrounded those absences. On many of those occasions he was completely unfit to play for Wales yet played for United just a few days later!
Looking at the (selfish) flaws in his character we now doubt he will manage Wales thus inheriting a similar set of circumstances. When asked if he would like to manage Wales in the future beyond current chief Chris Coleman, he replied: "If you have played for your country and then you go into management then yes, of course. But I am no fool. You cannot just walk into a job because you had a career in the game. You have to be deserving of managing your country because it’s a massive honour." If it was a massive honour how could he explain his absence? It is a complete contradiction!
We cannot envisage him managing millionaire footballers and asking them for honesty and commitment when he did not display those elements to his family or country. Listening to him speak or reading his written word does not get the pulse racing either, so we are not sure any amount of coaching badges and United experience would make him a certainty for management. It could well be that he is destined to be a number two and not a head honcho!
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