Giggs

Just how good is Ryan Giggs? I could keep this piece brief and very straightforward and merely say: “Very!”

999 games and counting...

999 games and counting…

That though wouldn’t do justice to the man who arguably has the right to think of himself as the greatest footballer of his generation, that is if you can actually work out which generation of footballers is his seeing as he has seemingly played so consistently brilliantly throughout endless ‘generations’ of footballers.

To put things in perspective, the player who most people rate as the world’s best player at the moment and perhaps of all time is Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Messi is a man who is constantly compared with his compatriot Diego Maradona who, before the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo came along, was thought by most to have been the greatest player ever to have graced a football field.

However, a common sticking point in the ‘best player of all time’ debate is that you cannot compare the likes of Maradona and Messi because they never played in the same ‘era’ and things were ‘so different back then…’

Maradona though was still playing top-flight professional football up until the late nineties and by then Ryan Giggs (getting back to the point finally, I appreciate how convoluted this may have seemed!) had already been playing top flight football for almost a decade himself with Manchester United. 16 years on from Maradona’s retirement Ryan Giggs remains a regular in one of the world’s greatest club sides.

The point of raking up the past and mentioning such greats as Maradona and Messi was to demonstrate just how long Ryan Giggs has been around for, and more to the point just how long he has been around at the very pinnacle of football for.

From the moment Giggs broke into the first team at Manchester United under the early guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, who lest we forget was only a fledgling name himself on the global footballing agenda at the time, he looked an enormous talent and he quickly became a key player in a developing and hugely successful side.

It is hard to believe now that United had before the early nineties endured a lengthy baron spell in terms of wining major trophies, but if their return to winning ways and worldwide prominence in the early nineties is mainly attributable to the brilliance of Sir Alex Ferguson, then surely the next greatest reason for this still ongoing golden era for the club has been the constant presence and genius of a certain Mr. Giggs.

In his club career Giggs has remained loyal to the club that gave him his big break and boy has he been rewarded for doing so.

His career to date has lasted longer than two decades which has brought us up to this point in time where he stands on the verge of his 1000th match, which is likely to take place on Saturday the 2nd March with Norwich City his likely opponents for this landmark outing.

Giggs' Manchester United yearbook photo

Giggs’ Manchester United yearbook photo

Remarkably though, in spite of his advancing years and the toll of having appeared in 999 top class football games for club and country, Giggs is continuing to demonstrate his genuine world-class ability and huge worth to the club that have served him so well.

He may be set to turn 40 in the near future but the past six weeks have served as a timely reminder of just why Giggs is still considered a major asset to his club.

His recent form has been logic defying and it has seen him continue his phenomenal run of having scored a league goal for United in each and every season since the Premier League’s inception. His form has been so good in fact that few of his peers, including the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, have matched up to him over the past few games and now the great man has signed on the dotted line on yet another contract extension.

This new deal will see Giggs continue his playing time with United at the very least until the end of next season and almost up until his 41st Birthday.

People will of course continue to consign him to the scrapheap as they have done for a decade now, but I have no doubt that he will again feature heavily next season for the Premier League champions-elect and I wouldn’t even rule out the possibility of bagging himself another contract come this time next year.

Though there is an awful lot for Giggs to celebrate there have of course been a few blotches on his record along the way, perhaps most famously his farcical public humiliation following the airing of the dirty laundry in his personal life, but also regarding his records and achievements on the football field.

The major source of disappointment for him in this sense must surely be that he has never once had the opportunity to play in a major international tournament. It is staggering that a talent such as he who has been such a force in the game and for such a long time has never been blessed with the opportunity to play in a World Cup or even just in a European Championship with his native country, Wales.

As sad as this is though it does little to dampen the huge impression that the Welsh wizard has left on the English and global game.

Ryan Giggs has always been my footballing hero and has been my favourite player for as long as I can remember. Plenty of geniuses have come along during his time at the top such as Maradona, Figo, Zidane, Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard, Ronaldo, Henry, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to name a few, but most have of them have also disappeared while he has still remained.

Ryan Giggs, you are an inspiration and to this day still a wonderful player.

I know you’re not reading this but I can’t help gushing. You’ve been that good.

After today it will be 1,000 games and counting, the mind boggles…

My all-time Premier League Dream Team

I’m sure that if you’ve come across this Blog post that you too have been enjoying the fact that the BBC Sport website is currently littered with Premier League nostalgia.

Cantona

The lists and videos of the best managers, games, goals, saves and celebrations ever to grace the Premier League are a joy to watch and have of course been compiled into lists of contenders for several special awards in honour of 20 years of Premier League football.

Each of the different categories have several different contributors and all of the players nominated for the awards are up for public vote via the Premier League’s official website.

Anyway, down to the important business… Inspired by the memories these videos have conjured up, I have decided to name my all-time Premier League Dream Team. I understand this may be a little bit of a touchy subject given just how passionate people are about their favourite teams and favourite players, but please, whether you agree whole-heartedly or in fact hate my selection then please don’t hesitate to chip in with a comment or two…

My team is as follows:

GK – Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United, Aston Villa and Manchester City)

For me there is no questioning this one. Schmeichel is arguably the best keeper the world has seen in my lifetime and as such he is perhaps the easiest choice of all in this line-up.

RB – Gary Neville (Manchester United)

Many non-United fans will argue against this but I hold Gary Neville and his contributions to United and to England in just as higher regard as many Danish fans will with Peter Schmeichel. I can’t think of anyone who even runs Neville close for this position and that is quite something when you consider how famously unglamorous the role of full-back can be. Head and shoulders above the competition.

CB – John Terry (Chelsea)

Terry Chelsea

Love him or hate him, JT has been outstanding for Chelsea in the PL

Just when it seemed I was choosing this team with a United fan’s bias I have thrown-in Mr.Chelsea at centre-half. I thoroughly dislike Terry in all honesty but it is hard not to admire the way he plays the game. He is strong, fearless, consistent and actually a very decent ball playing defender who is very comfortable when advancing up the pitch and getting himself into attacking positions. It is important for all good Premier League teams to have a major threat from set-piece situations and JT has proven time and time again that he has a decent eye for goal, he might not quite rival someone like Steve Bruce in this department but he is certainly very able in front of the opposition’s goal.

CB – Tony Adams (Arsenal)

Tony Adams led Arsenal brilliantly from the back and will be remembered as one of the finest centre-backs ever to play for Arsenal and for England. In addition to his ever-reliable defensive abilities, he too was more than capable when he made any forays out of defence.

LB – Ashley Cole (Arsenal and Chelsea)

Just as I said about Gary Neville on the other flank, I cannot think of anyone who really rivals Ashley Cole at Left Back. He has been arguably the outstanding player in his position throughout the vast majority of his career and though he deservedly received a lot of flack for his arrogant and totally ignorant comments in his last days at Arsenal, he was a key player in their ‘Invincibles’ side and has been equally as reliable and important to Chelsea’s success since his move to the Bridge.

RM – Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

It would have been easy to go down the patriotic route here and pick David Beckham who is my absolute hero but when it comes down to it Ronaldo is quite simply a better player. Beckham’s contributions to United and to the Premier League may have lasted a little longer than Ronaldo’s before each of their move’s to Madrid but I would go as far as to say that Ronaldo is the best player ever to play in the Premier League and the really scary thought is that he has become an even better player at Real. Beckham has been an outrageously good footballer but Ronaldo is on another level.

CM – Paul Scholes (Manchester United)

Scholes is probably the most cultured footballer ever to have played in the Premier League. His passing game has been practically unrivalled throughout his entire career and it is no surprise that the modern day pass-masters Xavi and Andres Iniesta of Spain and Barcelona have both spoken out about their admiration of Scholes as a player. Also, Sir Alex’s decision to re-sign Scholes in January is enormous testament to his talents and it seems that the Scot’s faith is going to be more than repaid as his return has inspired United to take the upper hand in this season’s title race. Even at 37 he is setting the standards for other Premier League playmakers.

CM – Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

This was a really hard call given how magnificent Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and Frank Lampard have been  throughout the Premier League years but I have decided to pick Gerrard on the grounds that his individual contributions may have meant more to Liverpool than those of the aforementioned players to their club’s. All of them are as worthy as each other to gain a place in this line-up but I have had to go for one and live with the consequences.

LM – Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)

Manchester united

There is probably no better way to justify Giggs’ selection than to say that he has won twelve Premier League titles to date and could be about to win a thirteenth. At 38 he is still a regular feature in the League’s top side and I don’t think anyone could argue against him making my line-up.

STRIKERS – Thierry Henry (Arsenal) and Eric Cantona (Leeds United and Manchester United)

The front two of this side has probably been the hardest to pick so I have opted for a balancing act. I have gone for the two players out of the incredibly gifted group that were in contention that I think would have made the best strike-partnership.

Thierry Henry is probably the most talented all-round striker the league has seen and the number of wonderful goals that he has scored for Arsenal whether they have been from long range, close range or from solo running efforts, I think, sets him apart from all the other contenders.

I have been at a bit of a loss as to who to pick alongside Henry but perhaps my United bias has won out in the end. Cantona was magnificent for Manchester United and there have been few players in the Premier League that have possessed such an aura about them on the pitch. His maverick genius would compliment Henry’s more direct goal threat brilliantly and I think they would have scored even more goals than they did if they were at the same club as each other in the respective prime’s of their careers.


Manager – Sir Alex Ferguson: His record speaks for itself.

Bench –

Brad Friedel: He may have been second choice at Liverpool for too long but when he moved on we realised just how good he is.

Rio Ferdinand: Brilliant ball-playing centre-half who has been consistently brilliant for every club he has played for in the Premier League.

Roy Keane: The most tenacious midfielder the League has ever seen and one of the most inspirational captains.

Patrick Vieira: The ultimate box-to-box midfielder, could easily have been picked ahead of Gerrard.

David Beckham: My hero but just not quite as good as Ronaldo.

Alan Shearer: Probably the unluckiest man of all not to make my first XI.

Unlucky to miss out (honourable mentions)…

David Moyes, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Harry Redknapp, Edwin Van Der Sar, David Seaman, Petr Cech, Shay Given, Denis Irwin, Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell, Jaap Stam, Nemanja Vidic, Frank Lampard, Matt Le Tissier, David Ginola, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljunberg, Jay-Jay Okocha, Scott Parker, Arjen Robben, Denis Bergkamp, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Gianfranco Zola, Didier Drogba, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Nicolas Anelka, Andy Cole, Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer