Legends: Ryan Giggs
As the most decorated player in English football history, winning 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions League winners’ medals, Ryan Giggs is easily a member of the prestigious collection of the game’s legends.
Blessed with beautiful balance, raw speed and a wicked left foot, Giggs always had the ingredients needed to be a great footballer.
A talent spotted by Sir Alex Ferguson who turned up at his front door to offer him a contract at Manchester United on his 17th birthday.
Approaching his 38th birthday, Giggs is still playing for the club he loves as the longest serving player in its history, having made over 600 appearances.
Scoring on his full debut for the club - the solitary goal in the Manchester derby - Giggs’ career was on the rise.
He was a first team regular at the age of 17 and won the PFA Young Player of the Year twice.
Newspapers claimed he had “single-handedly revolutionised football’s image” and by the age of just 21, Ryan Giggs was a household name, considered the “Premiership’s first poster boy”.
Early rise to fame
Giggs did not let his new-found fame interfere with his football; the level-headed youngster was completely focused on his professional career.
He was hailed as the first football star to capture the public’s attention since George Best - the Belfast boy has been quoted as saying “One day, they might say I was another Ryan Giggs”.
Giggs was the star pupil of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ – a group of young footballers that included David Beckham, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, players who went on to dominate English football, and quickly became known as the ‘Golden Generation’.
He was the scorer of great goals throughout his career, such as his goals against Queens Park Rangers in 1993, Tottenham in 1994, and Everton in 1995.
However, Giggs’ most memorable goal came against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay.
The Welsh wizard picked the ball up inside his own half, and beat four Arsenal players including Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown, before firing the ball into the roof of the David Seaman’s net.
The memory of Giggs famously running around with his shirt in the air has become an iconic image in Manchester United history, as later that season they became the first club to win the Treble, where Giggs played a pivotal role.
Ryan Giggs has received many compliments in his playing career; however the most memorable of these has to be what Alessandro Del Piero told Italian media.
He stated: "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".
This highlights the skill and wizardry this special player possessed with a ball at his feet.
He celebrated his 10 year anniversary at Old Trafford with a testimonial match against Celtic at the start of the 2001–02 campaign.
However, this was one of the most disappointing seasons Giggs had endured as a run of bad form the following season led many sceptics to believe he was past his sell-by date, scoring just nine goals in 40 games.
A magical night in Turin changed all this and Giggs’ romance with the Champions League silenced the doubters.
He scored a sensational goal against Juventus, beating a strong Italian defence one by one, and then tucking the ball away in Buffon’s bottom corner.
What followed was a classic ‘this is what I can do celebration’, turning his back to the fans and pointing to the name on the back of his shirt.
Most important goal
Many people argue this was his most important goal for Manchester United, as it put his career back on track going on to score 14 goals and win his eighth Premier League medal.
In the renaissance of his career, Giggs has settled into a more deep lying role, playing in centre midfield, a position where his raw pace and dribbling skill have been replaced his superb first touch and eye for a pass.
The change of role has not affected his performance levels, as in 2009 he won his first PFA Player of the Year.
Long gone are the days of his long, black locks, now replaced by shades of grey hair as he turns 38, but his influence over the game still remains as strong as ever.
Giggs is an inspiration for any young player aspiring to play the game; he is well-respected around the world, with compliments coming from the likes of Dunga, Del Piero and Bobby Charlton.
He has been fascinating fans for 20 years now and is still playing to this day; a true legend of the game.
By Matthew Braidwood