Following on from a magnificent performance last weekend against Stoke City in which Ryan Giggs had everyone including this writer purring, the mercurial Welshman hit a considerable milestone this week. During Manchester United’s somewhat laboured performance in the 2-1 triumph against Wolfsburg on Wednesday, Giggs netted his 150th career goal for the Red Devils – becoming the ninth player in the clubs history to do so.
Bobby Charlton – 249
Dennis Law – 237
Jack Rowley – 211
Dennis Viollet – 179
George Best – 179
Joe Spence – 168
Mark Hughes – 163
Ruud van Nistelrooy – 150
Ryan Giggs – 150
Stan Pearson – 148
For Giggs to be among such names is testament to what he has achieved in his glittering career for United. To be included in the list of the top goal scorers for one of the most famous football clubs in the world alongside the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Best, Law and Charlton and among such names as Viollet, Hughes and van Nistelrooy is an unbelievable achievement for any player. Add this to the record-breaking career appearances for United and the record-breaking 11 Premier League titles we can see just what Giggs has achieved. Not only are his achievements in black and white for all to see, his performances on the pitch are still there for all to see.
After Wednesday’s game Sir Alex Ferguson – the man who gave Giggs his chance in the first team as a 17-year-old and who has presided over his entire career – had the following to say: “All Ryan is doing at the moment is continuing to play. The amazing thing is he shows this incredible youthfulness about his performance. It is as if he has just started his career.”
This writer was fortunate enough, on his first visit to Old Trafford as a nine-year-old, to be dazzled by a young Ryan Giggs terrorising the Cambridge United back four in a 3-0 win in the first leg of a second round League Cup tie. Giggs was fantastic that night in the way he ran at his full-back each time he got the ball. We have seen this so many times over the years and none more so than in the recent derby. Up against a strong, pacey full-back in the shape of Micah Richards, Giggs tore him to shreds each and every time he got the ball. His end product was something which was often criticised as a young player – his performance in the derby showed how fantastic an end product he now has. He still has the youthfulness of old and the end product of a seasoned professional. That is a devastating combination.
The youthfulness is something which has come back into his play of late as he is playing injury-free and without any criticism. Criticism seems a strange thing to mention when talking about Giggs but there was a troubled period when he struggled and fans were even calling for him to leave. He emerged from that an even better player. Knowing that at one time his United career may have been in trouble and the onset of age meaning retirement is not far off Giggs is constantly playing in the moment and only focusing on the next game. This is very much in the mould of a young player before the pressures and rigours of being a pro fully set in. Seeing Giggs loving every moment he has on the pitch is a joy for all to see.
When first starting out Giggs faced tough competition for the left wing berth from Lee Sharpe. Sharpe was a little older than Giggs and was too an exciting prospect breaking into the first team just before Giggs, but this was a battle won with apparent ease. If we switch the focus to the right wing we can really see the longevity Giggs has achieved. In the time he has been playing United have had players such as Andrei Kanchelskis, David Beckham, Karel Poborsky, Cristiano Ronaldo, Yordi Cruyff, Ji-Sung Park, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Antonio Valencia operating on the right-hand side. Since Lee Sharpe, no-one other than Giggs has worn the number 11 shirt of Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson has been able to rely on him ever since giving him his debut. To play football for the number of years Giggs has done in itself is a great achievement, but to play at the highest level for a club like Manchester United where the pressure is so intense and to win trophies consistently is one of the greatest achievements in football. United under Ferguson has created history and there are many moments from which to savour. When thinking back on all the great teams you cannot ignore Giggs, whether it be his goal against Arsenal in 1999, his penalty in the 2008 Champions League final or his goal against Middlesbrough in 1996 – he just does not go away.
Sir Alex may not use him from the start against Sunderland on Saturday due to his age and the stream of tough games at the moment but you can be sure if he is on the pitch for any of the game he will certainly have something to say in the outcome.
Manchester United Club Focus
Welcome to Manchester, Michael – July 29
Goals from midfield the order of the day – August 5
Respect the consistency – August 12
Injury plague piles pressure on forwards – August 18
Usual slow starters living up to their reputation but is there cause for concern? – August 22
Enter the Champions – August 25
Anderson and Vidic pledge their allegiance – August 28
Win fails to hide Rooney’s need for a wingman – September 1
Ferguson sticking to his guns – September 4
Fingers pointed towards Old Trafford – September 8
Legal issues and a tough trip to north London – September 11
The two sides of Paul Scholes – September 15
A win in Turkey and a derby day to come – September 18
Fletcher revels in the “best derby of all time” – September 22
Tough trip to Stoke after lacklustre cup performance – September 25
Giggs leads by example – September 29
Giggs hits another milestone – October 2