Ryan Giggs: defining two decades

I always look back and think about my first Premier League memories; when it comes to matches of the early 90’s many stick in my mind, but when it comes to players there is one that really stands out as a symbol of the Premier League and the direction both the league and the football that was being played was heading: that man is Ryan Giggs. I remember being a youngster captivated by a player who was the first real Superstar of a new generation. Not only was he young and fresh, he was exciting and innovative as he endorsed a style of play English coaches seemed so intent on banishing; the emphasis seemed to be on simplicity of play rather than trusting players to express themselves.

My first recollection of this new brand of player was whilst watching ‘Ryan Giggs Secrets and Skills’ on VHS. A fresh faced, very wooden-sounding Giggs, head to toe in Reebok, went through various drills and general football techniques with Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton. More than being able to hone my skills via Ryan’s various drills, I was blown away by the little montages of him catching the ball on the back of his neck or in between his knee and chin, I loved copying these skills as well as some of his tricks that me and my mates would try an replicate at training. At a young age Ryan Giggs was inspiring a generation of new footballing talent, but it turns out he wasn’t just inspiring the kids.

It is no coincidence that the emergence of Giggs coincided with the emergence of Manchester United and Alex Ferguson’s reign of greatness, as United began their assault on English football in a bid to bring success back to Manchester. Giggs came in to a team that was starting to take shape, but he faced a battle to win a starting birth due to the success of another young left-winger, Lee Sharpe. Giggs had a talent that wasn’t destined for the bench though and in his first full season, 1991/92, an 18-year-old Giggs took the place of England hopeful Lee Sharpe in the United team. That first season, at only 18, Giggs played 51 games in total as Manchester United finished second in the last season of the old Division One and Giggs was awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year award for the first time.

Giggs was the first of a new generation of players that was coming through at Manchester United that would return the glory days back to Old Trafford and give Ferguson a career that has lead him to being considered as one of the best managers of all time. But Giggs was a pilot project for Fergie – he had never really had to manage a talent like Giggs before, especially as he had to do it in an environment that had never been seen before with the formation of the Premier League.

There had never been so much media coverage of football, but a new era had started and Ryan Giggs was the face of it. Fergie wrapped him up in cotton wool to begin with, keeping him away from the press and making sure he stayed grounded, whilst a young Giggs was groomed to be both image conscious and media savvy, whilst still concentrating on football. Giggs tested the water for a new generation of players that were about to come through from Manchester United’s youth team.

A lot of people will talk about David Beckham as the real poster boy of Manchester United and English football, but it started with Giggs. Fergie had already had success with his handling of the young Giggs, and like the second child in any family, the restraints were loosened that allowed brand Beckham to achieve all it has, but when you look at football, it is Giggs that has excelled. Many could argue that Giggs never plied his trade away from Manchester United so can’t really be considered one of the world’s best, but he 110% can. Giggs is one of only a handful of players that managed to play at the top of their game, at the highest level, in an ever changing landscape for two decades.

In saying that Giggs did have brief encounters with celebrity lifestyle, he had the big money endorsements worldwide, he had the looks and floppy hair that made him the first United playboy since George Best and he had the odd celebrity girlfriend that came and went (everyone must remember Danni Behr right?). Giggs became one of the first symbols of a new world that was obsessed with celebrity, gossip and bad boy antics as characterised by his then Girlfriend Danni Behr’s Channel 4 show ‘The Word’.

Since that early flirtation in the mid-90’s with celebrity, Giggs has gone on to keep his head down and (until recently) let his football do the talking on the pitch rather than in the newspapers, as he recently reached the huge landmark of 900 games for Manchester United. True to script, Giggs popped up to score a last minute winner in that 900th game and Ferguson said “he probably deserves that for the career he’s had” and is just another special achievement for Giggs. He holds numerous club and individual accolades, but none more so than the plethora of Premier League records that he holds that look likely to go on for some time. Ryan Giggs’ football achievements are something that truly should be held in high regard, he has optimised the rise of Manchester United, the Premier League and English football, as well as being the original modern superstar that society and football has demanded. Take a bow Ryan Giggs, you have been a revelation that I am proud to have grown up with, you helped make the Premier League, Manchester United and Alex Ferguson all they are today. I will finish with a few quotes about Ryan Giggs…

George Best: “One day they might say I was another Ryan Giggs.”

Roy Keane: “Ryan was two years younger than me but in terms of ability and maturity, he was light years ahead.”

Paul Scholes: “There have been so many outstanding players I have had as team-mates but if I had to name one, it would be Ryan. He could do everything.”

Zinedine Zidane: “Giggs is truly world class”

Luis Figo:” “He has the most talent than any other football player.He is delicate and dynamic.He is the player chosen by God.”

Johan Cruyff: “Eric Cantona is a great player, but he’s not as good as Ryan Giggs.”

We would like to hear your thoughts on Ryan Giggs – is he the best Premier League player ever? Use the comment section below to let us know your opinon or tell us on our Facebook page or on our Twitter account @FootballRascal. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. ANNA says:

    Got to say Giggsy is my no.1 all time player his record says it all too.
    George Best was my first hero and he is the first superstar along with Becks, Giggsy was shielded by Fergie. Maybe you are too young to remember . thanks.

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