At Loftus Road last weekend, Ryan Giggs popped up to slot home Manchester United’s second of the afternoon, and keep The Red Devils on course for more Premier League success.
What is significant about this, is that Giggs scored on his 999th senior professional appearance (playing for Manchester United, Wales and Great Britain).
It would be magical for the Welshman to score on his 1000th appearance next weekend if he features against Norwich City. It is also fantastic that he has achieved this by staying at the one of the greatest club sides in the world throughout his career. He is the perhaps the greatest example of why clubs should look to keep their experienced professionals around.
When you look at the success of Giggs and how he has been treated over the years at Old Trafford, there is an element of surprise in the way Chelsea are treating their own veteran in Frank Lampard.
Chelsea seem to be getting out with the old and in with the new. They are looking at an injection of youth whilst United find that balance and demonstrate an expertise in handling players in the twilight of their careers.
At United, Sir Alex Ferguson has demonstrated a real knack of getting the best out of his senior players. Giggs and his midfield partner Paul Scholes have both played vital roles in United’s recent title challenges (who can forget Scholes’ goal in the Manchester Derby?) and they are both extremely useful squad players for Sir Alex. With United, Giggs and Scholes recognise they can’t play every week and are happy with their roles.
At Chelsea there is a complete reverse, some of the biggest earners at Stamford Bridge are over 30 and for some reason the Chelsea hierarchy seem intent on forcing them out. Last season it was Didier Drogba and this season there has been endless speculation surrounding the future of Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. The former has agreed a one year extension to his current deal but as it stands Lampard is yet to be offered a new contract.
Whilst a lucrative financial package could be a valid reason to allow him to leave it has been widely reported that the player would be willing to take a wage drop in order to stay. With talented youngsters such as Kevin De Bruyne and Nathaniel Chalobah impressing on loan, The Blues clearly have some promising players in the centre of midfield, however it would still be good for the club to have a player of Lampard’s class around the set up.
The England international has been an icon for the club in recent years, and his commitment has never been in doubt. His weight in goals cannot be underestimated as he consistently reaches well over double figures each season.
United and Cheslea are two of the top clubs in England, but have very different approaches when it comes to players at the end of their careers. You must feel that Manchester United will end up keeping the likes of Robin van Persie around at Old Trafford for a good few years to come. The likes of Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and Angelo Henriquez will only continue to improve when training and playing along side such an experienced player.
One story that really demonstrates the importance of older players at a club comes from Cristiano Ronaldo and his early years at Old Trafford.
During a training session, Ronaldo was showing some of his tricks to Scholes, the veteran midfielder just pointed to a tree around 50 metres away and said he would hit it in one attempt. He did, and Ronaldo couldn’t manage it in ten attempts. It’s a perfect example of an old hand showing a young star that there is more to the game then just fancy skills.
Keeping hold of older players is something I really believe Chelsea could learn from if they want to properly utilise their star players. If Chalobah and De Bruyne are the future of Chelsea’s midfield then who better to learn from then the man who has ran it for so many years?
As far as Chelsea fans are concerned it is unfortunate that Romelu Lukaku didn’t get more than one year to learn under Didier Drogba.
If they lose too much experience in a short space of time they could find themselves left with a very inexperienced squad when it comes to title challenges. Something United don’t struggle with, Giggs and Scholes have 22 Premier League medals between them, perhaps that’s one of the reason’s they’re 19 points clear of Chelsea.
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