With 10 Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s and two Champions League trophies to boot, Ryan Giggs has achieved more with Manchester United in eighteen years then Manchester City ever have in their entire history (although chin up Dimitar, you’ve probably won more in half a season with us too).
The recently crowned PFA Player of the Year has been enduring some pretty harsh criticism over the last few days purely because his fellow professional peers deemed it appropriate he receive the prestigious award. Yes it’s true to say that he hasn’t set the Premier League alight with his performances this season but, to be fair, who has? Ryan Giggs has epitomised professionalism and dedication to the game of football for almost two decades now and, for me, that alone is testament enough for him receiving the PFA accolade.
The critics tend to forget that Giggs has actually been a prominent member of our first-team squad this season despite only making 12 starts in the league. He has helped us become Champions of the world, he was arguably the best player on the park against Chelsea earlier in the season and scored an ultimately decisive winner against West Ham at a crucial stage of the season. He’s also set to play an important role in hopefully helping us negotiate our way past Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final too. Not bad for a player that has supposedly received the sympathy vote eh.
Remarkably our 35-year-old winger may well have been enduring years of disappointment in City blue (a painful thought isn’t it) had Sir Alex not intervened on Giggs’ 14th birthday. You clearly don’t need me to remind you of exactly what happened next but I’ll paint a brief picture of the Welshman’s career at Old Trafford to put a positive spin on all this recent negative press.
Giggs turned professional at United in November 1990, making his league debut for the club at 17-years-old on 2nd March 1991 against Everton (a good six months before young Federico Macheda had even entered the world would you believe). The City connection was once again revisited with his first league goal coming against our bitter rivals in the derby at Old Trafford back in May 1991. And just to add to the City nostalgia even further, anyone remember that goal at Maine Road in 1996? How City fans must eternally rue the one that got away!
The first winners’ medal to make its way onto the Giggs mantelpiece was the European Super Cup in November 1991 and boy have the honours been flooding in ever since. I’ve already mentioned the major trophies but it is important to note that our decorated winger was an influential part of our double winning sides of 1993/94 and 1995/96. Fast forward some ten years to last season and he was still at the forefront of our Premier League and Champions League double. Lest we forget the unprecedented treble winning season of 1999 and that goal against Arsenal. To this day it continues to send shivers down the old spine.
It was in 2001 when Giggs was awarded a testimonial match against Celtic for 10 years of truly fantastic service to the club. Here we are in 2009 and the level headed master of Old Trafford is one appearance away from 800 in a United shirt. He’s already broken Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time appearance record at the club and who’s to say he won’t go on to claim another half century.
On the international stage we all know the story about Giggs being one of the greatest players ever not to have graced a World Cup. With 64 caps and 12 goals he was certainly a decent servant to his country and as Gilberto Silva once put it, he could have quite comfortably played for any country in the world – even Brazil.
On and off the field Giggs has been an ambassador of the game and is the perfect role model for children looking for inspiration from football. Not one for poorly timed tackles or nightclub frolics, if Carlsburg did professional footballers, Ryan Giggs would undoubtedly be the prototype they would use.
Before I close let’s get things straight. Not to harp on about it too much but at the end of the day it’s not up to us, the press or anybody else to determine whether Ryan Giggs deserved to receive the PFA Player of the Year. His fellow Manchester United teammates couldn’t vote for him, his Premier League rivals did and that’s a fact that can’t be contested. The voting system may need a revamp but that’s not Giggs’ fault is it.
So what could possibly be next on the agenda for a player that has achieved pretty much everything during his life in football? A knighthood would perhaps be the most fitting tribute and hopefully the press won’t be quite as hasty to question the Queen’s Birthday Honours list as they have with the decisions of Premier League footballers.