Twenty years on and Giggs quest for glory far from over
Mike Collett on 20 years of Ryan Giggs
The world, and English soccer, was a very different place 20 years ago, but one thing has remained unchanged — Ryan Giggs is still playing for Manchester United and still in the hunt for trophies.
Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of the day the skinny 17-year-old came on after 35 minutes of a match in the old First Division to replace the injured Denis Irwin for the first of what is now 863 appearances for the club.
His arrival went largely unremarked in the following days reports of United’s 2-0 defeat to Everton at Old Trafford.
It’s fair to say that few, if any, of the achievements and milestones he has reached since then have been similarly ignored.
Now 37, he is now the most decorated player in the history of English soccer, having won 11 League Championship medals, four FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions Leagues.
On Tuesday night at Chelsea he made his 606th League appearance for United — equalling the record set by Bobby Charlton at the same ground in 1973.
That was Charlton’s last League game for United, while Giggs has just agreed another year’s extension to his contract.
He surpassed Charlton’s all-time appearance record of 758 matches for United on the night United beat Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow and his next numerical target is probably his 1000th game — although for once that might be a goal just out of reach.
However, the player himself has shown that nothing is impossible.
In a series of wide-ranging interviews published this week, Giggs spoke about the source of his motivation, the secret of his longevity, the highs and lows of his career and the future which he admits, frightens him more than it did three or four years ago.
He might coach, he might take up the ambassadorial role that United would offer him, but whatever he does do, most of the memories that he will leave his fans will be golden ones.
His manager Alex Ferguson has run out of superlatives to describe him. “All he’s been doing is tramping up and down the left wing for United for the last 20 years,” he jokes when asked to describe him. More seriously he says he is the greatest professional he has ever worked with and describes him as “an utterly fantastic man and player who has lived his life the right way.”
Even Giggs admits he doubts anyone will match his record of playing so many games over such a long period at the top level for just one club.
A scorer of some great goals rather than a great goal-scorer, Giggs’ anniversary ended in disappointment on Tuesday when United were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea, although they remain favourites for the title.
They are also chasing the Champions League and FA Cup and Giggs’ quest for medals and trophies is far from over.