Tonight’s game against Ajax wouldn’t normally be treated as a historic occasion. United are well on course to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League’s poor sister, after a 2-0 win in Amsterdam a week ago.
But tonight’s game is a game United fans will never forget, as it marks Ryan Giggs’ 900th appearances for the club.
Yes, that is 900 times that Giggsy has donned the United shirt or, if you prefer, 21 years of service to the cause since he made his debut against Everton on the 2nd of March 1991.
Everything has been said about Ryan Giggs, making it an almost impossible exercise to describe him with words for the man defies logic as well as nature, and writing about him becomes an almost tedious account of his unrivalled trophy cabinet and records.
I remember struggling to condense Giggsy’s career in an article when faced with the task of writing about him for the All Time Best 11 feature.
What else can be said about a player that has won 12 league titles, 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 Champions Leagues, 1 Intercontinental Cup, 1 FIFA Club World Cup a UEFA Super Cup and 8 Community Shields?
The list of individual awards is just as impressive, as it includes 2 PFA Young Player of the Year awards, 6 PFA Team of the Year nominations, a PFA Player of the Year award and a BBC Sport Personality of the Year award.
The point is that, when Giggsy has been involved, more often than not, words have failed me. How could anybody describe the scenes of total, delirious and jubilant joy that he sparked with THAT goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinal replay of 1999?
13 years have gone by but every time I watch it I still feel the same buzz I felt when I saw it at Villa Park.
Anybody claiming that fate has no place in football should reconsider their stance on the matter, by watching United’s last two game of the 2008 season.
United had fought head to head with Liverpool throughout the season and the title race had gone down to the wire.
On the last day of the campaign United were away at Wigan, Giggs entered the scene with his team 1-0 ahead, equalling Bobby Chartlton’s record of 758 appearances for the club, and scored in front of the traveling fans to seal the title.
It was difficult to tell if they were more pleased because of him or for him.
Two weeks later, he replaced Paul Scholes in the Champions League final surpassing Charlton’s record.
Clive Tyldesley’s words: “No player has ever appeared for Manchester United more times than Ryan Giggs” were still ringing in my ears as a penalty shootout approached.
Shortly after Giggs had come on, I received a text message from my dad (who, I’ve always suspected, adores Giggs more than he loves me) saying: “Giggsy is gonna win it for us. It has to be him that wins it tonight.”
Hours later, after Giggsy had scored what proved to be the crucial penalty, I found another text from my dad. It simply said: “I told you.”
Without the man who was offered his first professional contract on his 17th birthday and became a professional two days later, Manchester United’s history – as well as English football’s – over the last 21 years would have been very different.
That he’s still playing at the highest level, nine months short of his 39th birthday, is simply unbelievable.
Ryan Giggs is the most successful British footballer of all time, the player that has appeared more than anybody else in Premier League’s history and scored in every season since the induction of the new top division. He’s also the oldest goal-scorer in Champions League’s history, as well as being the only player to have scored in 16 Champions League tournaments.
Despite all of this, he doesn’t complain when confined on the bench or in the stands, which is why the word “legend”, otherwise abused and misused, is the only way to describe him.
Ryan Giggs made his debut on the 2nd of March 1991. 21 years, 900 games, 162 goals and 12 League titles later he’s still tearing teams apart.
Ryan Giggs isn’t a Manchester United player, Ryan Giggs is Manchester United.
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