Ryan Giggs: 22 years of pure footballing genius.

Testament to his longevity, the name Ryan Giggs will conjure up contrasting imagery for contrasting demographics of the sporting fandom.

Testament to his longevity, the name Ryan Giggs will conjure up contrasting imagery for contrasting demographics of the sporting fandom. For those long in the tooth, stirred are wistful recollections of a callow, curly-haired maestro who peddled slaloming runs en route to superstardom. For my age bracket, he is the elemental dynamo of the buccaneering United brigade that swept all in Europe; Beckham, Solskjaer, Yorke, they had their appeal, but Giggs was the gliding perfectionist of the group. To those spectators bedded firmly in the present, the man is an elder statesman of the modern game – a paragon of intellectual play that continues to belie his aging frame.

Iconic winger

To be pithy, it is evident that Ryan Giggs, the iconic winger, has transcended a few generations. As he has outstripped time itself, as well as countless full-backs, Giggs has left a catalogue of rose-tinted memoirs in his wake. For Manchester United supporters, he has endowed a micro-culture of iconography (the shirts), psalms (the chants) and rituals (the celebrations) which have helped to crystallise what it means to be one of the fervent legion of ‘Red Devils’ across the globe . His is a Roy of the Rovers comic campaign that must be absorbed in its chronological instalments if one is to comprehend the profound footprint that Giggs has impressed upon us.

Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs running down the wing

Feared by the Blues, Loved by the Reds,

Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs!

Act one of Giggs’ career was very much the archetypal fable of a precocious talent. Originally enrolling for United’s cross-town rivals Manchester City, it took a protracted courting ritual engineered by Sir Alex Ferguson himself to secure his defection to the red half of the city. Such was his place in his manager’s affections it was not long before he made his full first-team appearance in 1991. His displays were preternatural, earning him the PFA Young Player of the Year Award in 1992, and more tellingly, drawing comparisons with the Old Trafford darling of the Seventies, George Best.

If in front of the camera the boyish Giggs seemed flappable and demure, when the ball was placed at his feet he underwent a metamorphosis. Bristling with pluck and enterprise, Ryan was the antithesis of his public persona as he became renowned for his mesmerising forays which would bedazzle the left flanks of stadia around the country. Just as the gritty chords of Oasis and the Stone Roses were seeping out of ‘Madchester’, Giggs’ frenetic style was becoming equally symbolic of Mancunian culture.

Throughout the incipient epoch of his fairytale tenure, Giggs scored some fearsome strikes – a trait not readily aligned with the winger. But if one goal typified “Giggs original”, it was his take versus Tottenham Hotspur in the 92/93 season. Capitalising on a trademark defensive slip-up from Spurs, Giggs delivered a surge of incontestable pace to leave two centre-backs and a goalkeeping floundering in his slipstream. Finishing with aplomb it celebrated the speed, artistry and poise which resided within the young pretender.

Viera – oh, oh, oh, oh- 

Viera – oh, oh, oh, oh-

He gave Giggsy the ball 

And Arsenal won f*ck all

So, to Giggs in his purported pomp, and to the segment of his career which truly proliferated his trophy cabinet. Surrounded by a resplendent cast of arguably the most masterful team of Ferguson’s long reign, Man Utd vanquished all-comers on the dual frontiers of domestic and European competition. Seldom would onlookers behold such a well-balanced squadron, with the pugnacity of Roy Keane, execution of Dwight Yorke and steel of Jaap Stam scaffolding an era epitomised by that hallowed night in the Nou Camp. That improbable revival against Bayern Munich sealing the treble, represented the summit of his generations’ accomplishments. Largely, Giggs remained the febrile flair of this decorated composition.

That goal

But he was evolving. Whilst the midfield colossi of David Beckham and Paul Scholes were trumpeted as the facilitators of United’s goal-bound prolificacy at this time, many understate the influential interplay of Giggs. Burgeoning his armoury, Giggs was appending incisive passing to his renowned pace and verve. Habitually, Giggs would beat an opponent granting the space to author a telling through ball; he was becoming increasingly astute.
Ironically, it was a goal steeped in the vintage virtues of Ryan that would signify the apogee of “Giggs 2.0”. Deep into extra-time of an attritional FA cup semi-final encounter against nemesis du jour Arsenal, Giggs intercepted an errant pass from Patrick Viera. What ensued is enshrined in Cup folklore as the winger tore from his own half through the Gunner’s ranks unseating Martin Keown before nestling the ball forcefully into the roof of David Seaman’s net. Whilst his celebration was deemed unsightly as he disrobed to unveil a carpeted, hirsute chest, the goal itself could not have been rendered in more aesthetically-pleasing fashion.

Giggssss….Giggs will tear you apart…again

Giggssss….Giggs will tear you apart…again

It may seem an ill-conceived notion now, but in the heart of the 01-02 campaign whispers of a gradual decay of the Welsh winger simmered amidst the back pages, and hung discreetly amongst the throngs in the terraces. In hindsight, Giggs was merely plotting his renaissance, refining his technique to accommodate playing centrally, whilst detracting from the bygone explosiveness of his younger trade. Today he conducts himself on-pitch with a sleight of thought which has offset the aging of his pins, and outwitted sprightlier adversaries.

The latter throes of his vocation were marred by indiscretions away from the Theatre of Dreams as he met tabloid vilification for his egregious philandering in 2011. Wrong though his conduct irrefutably was, it seemed only to exemplify those human foibles that exist even in the seemingly incorruptible. Since the fallout, his commendable and unstinting asceticism within the parameters of the game has not only served as an elixir to his work, but has observably regained him favour in the court of public opinion.

The moment that consecrates the third coming of Giggs? That would be every invaluable second that we spectators can bear witness to a contemporary luminary living out his Indian Summer through the conduit of the deft caressing, breathless tracking and lethal command of a football. But if forced I would protest that his 2009 finish against West Ham was a landmark, indexing that the ravages of time had not weathered his great reserves of fleet-footed sorcery.


Although the clock inevitably ticks onwards towards his eventual abdication, he has summoned sufficient energy to sign a one year contract extension; this will tie him to Manchester Utd as an outfield player at the distinctly seasoned age of forty.

Giggs, by virtue of his standing in the game, has been accorded the right to stand down when he determines, not when the consensus decrees.

Anderson, Antonio Valencia, Juan Sebastian Veron, Lee Sharpe, Andrei Kanchelskis, Nani – all respectable midfielders that have yearned to supersede the ageing Welshman but have been obstinately outlasted. Over the course of his twenty-two magnificent years at United, Giggs has proven himself the most Darwinian of footballing creatures. He shall be survived only by the choruses that exalt his name from the recesses of the Stretford End.