Last weekend marked a momentous occasion, not just for Manchester United but also for everyone who loves football as the living legend Ryan Giggs made his 900th club appearance.
In typical fashion Giggs marked the occasion with a late winner at Carrow Road to keep United’s title push on track. Now I could go on about all the trophies he’s won and the records he’s broken in his career but we already know plenty about that.
My first real memories of football were at the age of 7, the ones standing out the most being the sweltering World Cup ’94 in USA and Manchester United winning the double, with one player in particular becoming a star. A year earlier he had helped United win their first title in the top flight for 26 years and won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award. He continued his brilliant form in the double-winning season and he retained the PFA Young Player of the Year Award. A star was born.
Now I’m a Derby fan, but back then I followed United due to my Dad brainwashing me and me living in the North West where the majority of my mates supported them. At that moment in time Giggs was becoming the superstar of British football, he even had his own TV show, Giggs’ Soccer Skills, and released a book based on the series. I was an avid watcher of the program and persuaded my Mum to buy me the book, trying to recreate what he did on the pitch and pull off a few tricks. Along with King Eric he was everyone’s favourite player, the lads wanted to be him and the lasses adored him.
Who would have thought that 18 years down the line he would still be wearing the number 11 shirt at Old Trafford. Don’t forget that he was linked with various transfers to Italy in the ’90s, while at the start of this century some disgruntled United fans were getting on his back regarding his poor performances, saying it was time for him to leave. Boy did he prove them wrong, as he did with plenty of football fans. Fergie saw that he couldn’t be as effective on the wing as he was in his heyday, so he cleverly switched him into a central role that turned out to be a masterstroke. It’s certainly been key to his longevity along with all the yoga exercises he does.
The main aspect that impresses me about Giggs is how professional he has been throughout his career. I know he’s done some unsavoury things off the pitch in recent years, but on it you can’t fault him. He’s never been sent off in club football (the only red card he did pick up was whilst playing for Wales), he’s never moaned about being left out of the starting 11 and he’s been such an inspiration to the youngsters at United and Wales. He’s led by example and has been the cool head that United have needed in their success.
For someone to consistently play for one of the biggest clubs in the world for such a long time is an incredible feat, one that will not be replicated again. It’ll be a sad day when he finally hangs up his boots, I know he’s got a while yet but I really hope we do get to see him make that sacred 1000th appearance. Some people will say that it’s a little too far for him, but as he’s proved before, you can never say never in football.