Football

Ryan Giggs: Manchester United's greatest ever player?

Giggs is a Manchester United legend (©GettyImages)
Giggs is a Manchester United legend (©GettyImages).

There are many names affiliated to Manchester United. Whether it's Sir Alex Ferguson, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Eric Cantona, Sir Matt Busby or Denis Law.

However, arguably the greatest player to ever wear the famous red shirt is none other than the Welshman, Ryan Giggs. Here's a look at the man who has played more than 1,000 matches in his career.

Giggs signed his first professional contract with Manchester United in 1990 at the age of 17. Prior to this he had appeared for United's rivals Manchester City and schoolboy and youth level but was convinced to join the Old Trafford club by manager Alex Ferguson. He made his debut for United the following year and scored his first goal for the club ironically in the Manchester derby to give his new club a 1-0 win.

He won his first cap for Wales in the same year and was the youngest player to ever represent the country for seven years. Giggs played just two games in his first season in football but despite being still aged 17, he broke into the first team for the start of the 91/92 season.

By doing so, Giggs paved the way for a lot of future young talents to make the grade at Old Trafford. In particular Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Gary Neville. In his first full season with United, the Welshman made 50 appearances in all competitions, a remarkable number given his young age but unfortunately for Giggs and co. United finished second in the table behind Leeds in the final year of the English First Division.

Giggs also captained the United youth team to the FA Youth Cup in 1992 and also enjoyed his first taste of silverware with the senior team, that being the League Cup as United defeated Nottingham Forest in the final, just a small sign of things to come.

The 1992/93 campaign marked the first season of the new Premier League era. Giggs had emerged as one of the best young wingers in English football alongside Steve McManaman. For the first time in 26 years, United were crowned the champions of England thanks in no small part to the Welsh winger who scored nine league goals that season to earn his first of thirteen Premier League winners medals.

The following season saw Giggs at the peak of his powers alongside the likes of Eric Cantona, Andrei Kanchelskis and Roy Keane who had recently signed from Nottingham Forest. The 1993/94 campaign saw the Welshman score a career high of 17 goals in all competitions, that majority of those coming in the league as United retained the Premier League crown.

Giggs was also named as the PFA young player of the year for the second time in as many seasons, a feat that has only been matched by Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney. Due to a number of injuries, the Welshman was unable to recapture his form of the previous two seasons and thus United relinquished the Premier League title to big spending Blackburn Rovers.

However fully fit again, Giggs returned with a vengeance and despite trailing Newcastle United for much of the season and at one stage by ten points in the table, United managed to go on a long unbeaten run in the league and following a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough in the final game of the 1995/96 season, the title was back at Old Trafford for the third time in four years. United also won the F.A. Cup in 1996 with a 1-0 victory over Liverpool.

United regaining the Premier League title meant automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage. It was the first chance for the likes of Giggs, Beckham, Keane and Scholes to really show what they could do in Europe. The most memorable game of the 1996/97 Champions League campaign was a 4-0 win for United at Old Trafford against Porto in the quarter final.

Porto along with Juventus had been dubbed as the best team in Europe, however that night United showed they were a force to be reckoned with in the premier club competition in the world. Giggs scored the third goal that night and with it, United advanced to the semi final where they were defeated by eventual winners, Borussia Dortmund. Despite being unsuccessful in winning the Champions League, United won the Premier League yet again to prove they were still the dominant force in English football.

The following season, United missed out on the title by a single to rivals Arsenal. A poor run of form towards the end of the season and a number of injuries to key players including Giggs, Peter Schmeichel and Gary Neville saw United finish the season trophy-less for only second time in nine years.

The 1998/99 campaign would prove to be the most successful in the history of Manchester United football club. Thanks to the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and of course Giggs, United became the first and to this day only English side to win the Premier League,  the F.A. Cup and the Champions League in one season.

A number of memorable moments for the Welshman were the now famous extra time winner he scored against Arsenal in the F.A. Cup semi final to give his side a 2-1 win and also a last gasp equaliser against Juventus in the Champions League semi final first leg at Old Trafford. Giggs also set up Sheringham for the equalising goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final before Solskjaer scored the winner seconds later. With it, Giggs had now added a Champions League winners medal to his long and ever-growing list of honours.

From 1999-2001, United won the Premier League three times in a row becoming the first and thus far only team to achieve this feat.

Giggs became the club's longest serving player when Denis Irwin left the club in the summer of 2002. The Welshman scored his 100th goal in all competitions for United during a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge the same year. In May 2003, United were crowned Premier League champions for an eighth time, Giggs managed to score a highly impressive 14 goals in all competitions that season, however it would be four years before the winger and United tasted Premier League success again.

In May 2004, Giggs won the fourth F.A. Cup winners medal of his career as United defeated Millwall 3-0 in the final at the Millennium Stadium in the Welshman's hometown, Cardiff. Two years later at the very same venue he won his first English League Cup winners medal since 1992 as United defeated Wigan 4-0 in the final. Giggs was also inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 for his longevity and achievements within the game since first signing for the club 15 years previous.

United regained the league title after four years in transition in 2007. The following two seasons, United retained the league title and for the second time the club had one the Premier League three times in a row.

In 2008, United faced Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow. The game finished 1-1 with Cristiano Ronaldo giving United the lead before Frank Lampard equalised for Chelsea. Still level after 120 minutes the match went to penalties. Fittingly Giggs scored the decisive penalty before United goalkeeper Edwin Van deer Sar saved the following spot-kick from Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka and with it for the third time in the club's rich history, Manchester United were crowned as the champions of Europe.

Giggs was voted the PFA Players' Player of the Season in 2009, the first time he had received the award in almost twenty years of service. At the end of that same year, the club legend was named the Manchester United Player of the Decade.

In 2010, Giggs scored the first ever league penalties of his career by scoring two from the spot against Tottenham Hostpur in a 3-1 win at Old Trafford. In 2011, he surpassed Bobby Charlton's appearance record by playing his 607th league game for the club against Liverpool.  United won the league for a record 19th time in 2011 and also reached the final of the Champions League but were beaten 3-1 by Barcelona in the final at Wembley.

In February 2012, Giggs made his 900th appearance for Manchester United in an away game against Norwich City. He marked this honour by scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute to give his side a 2-1 win. Following the match, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson stated that playing 900 matches won't be done for a single club will never be done again. A year later the Welshman scored his first goal of the season during a 2-0 home win over Everton. He extended his run of scoring in every Premier League since it was formed in 1992.

In the first knockout phase of the Champions League, Giggs made the 1,000th appearance of his career against Real Madrid at Old Trafford. Unfortunately the rare achievement was overshadowed as United were eliminated from the competition, losing 3-2 on aggregate to the Spanish giants. However two months later the club were crowned champions of England for the 20th time in their history and with it Giggs earned his staggering 13th Premier League winners medal.

In the summer of 2013, Ferguson who had managed United for 26 years retired and was replaced by former Everton boss, David Moyes. In July of this year, Giggs was appointed as player/coach of Manchester United for the coming season and also signed a one year contract extension with the club he has played for since he was 17.

There really isn't enough words to describe what a credit Ryan Giggs is to himself and to Manchester United. He has never been sent off at club level and just once while playing for Wales. Not to mention his achievements with United, Giggs also captained the Great Britain team that took part in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

He was capped 64 times for the Welsh national team and scored 12 goals for his country. He has thus far won the Premier League 13 times, the F.A. Cup four times, the League Cup four times, the Champions League twice and the FIFA Club World Cup once. His individual honours are second to none and the Welshman was also selected for the Champions League dream team in its tenth anniversary.

For a man who has made 1,000 appearances for club and country, it's no surprise that the Manchester United legend is on par with the best players who have ever played for the club. Giggs takes his place alongside other club greats such as George Best, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Bryan Robson, Paul Scholes, Eric Cantona and many others as arguably the greatest Manchester United player of all time.

Do you think that Ryan Giggs is the best player to ever wear the red and white of Manchester United? Have your say below.

 

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Topics:
Premier League
Manchester United
Football
Ryan Giggs

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