Last week, amid the euphoria that followed the appointment of a new manager, Ryan Giggs called time on his playing career. It's unfortunate that if happened i the midst of so much else going on, but his retirement has left a mark on world football. Whichever way you look at it, it's football's loss. Everything about Ryan is put into perspective when you remember that whenever United had an away game in Europe, foreign fans in stadiums you'd never expect afforded Ryan a standing ovation even for cameo appearances. There's not many players in the game, past and present, who earn universal respect and admiration for what they do on the pitch.
'A quarter of a century at one club' is probably the last time we'll get to use those words in the same sentence. Perhaps the gratest tribute to Ryan is that his stats and numbers will never be achieved. His 963 appearance record is certainly one that should last for a few generations to come. Not until human beings evolve to a level of fitness that allows them to play into their 50s at the highest level shall his records be surpassed.
Given the length of time he has spent at United, the number of favourite anecdotes and moments of Ryan are as many as the number fans that can tell them. From his debut freekick goal against Manchester City in 1991 to scoring what is still the FA Cup's all time best goal, there's plenty to say about Giggs. My personal favourite Giggs moment has nothing to do with on pitch action. It was a small pep talk that Giggs had with the players in 2008 revealled by Darren Fletcher.
On that memorable rainny night in Moscow, seconds after winning the Champions League, Giggs got the players in a huddle and told them to win it again the following year. Darren recalls that at that moment, the players looked stunned at the Welshman. They hadn't had 5 minutes to celebrate a momentous achievement but here was Giggs asking them to do it again the following year. That summed up Giggs for me, and if ever you need an explanation to his medal haul, it's that small pep talk delivered in the rain in Moscow to the newly crowned European Champions.
A lot of the players in the game today settle for a couple of achievements and slack off. Giggs had this unquencheable thirst for success that can only be admired. The personal discipline and sacrifice that he had to come to terms with to play into his 40th birthday is something that the modern day professional ought to learn. We are told some players cannot play at their peak past 32 because they started playing at 16. Paul Scholes recently made that observation about Wayne Rooney. Well, Giggs started out at 14 in the youth team and was a first team player by 17 and yet 963 games later, he is still better than most of the midfielders we've got at United currently. His performances in Germany against Bayer Leverkusen and the home tie against Bayern Munich tell you all to know about his current abilities.
It's fantastic that he becomes assistant manager under Luis van Gaal as that rretains the link with the past ahead of the new dawn that awaits United. Fellow professionals regard him as the Legend of Legends, to us fans he will always be THAT guy who has been Tearjng Teams Apart Since 1991.
Knight Him Now!