Today marks day two of the Severn Sport Premier League Greatest players series. A series which was kicked off by Kelsey and his greatest ever Premier League player, Thierry Henry.
A player who no doubt would make most if not all “Greatest Premier League XI’s” but for today, I am in charge. Ryan Butler’s greatest ever Premier League player is a man who epitomises what it takes to not only thrive year in year out in the Premier League but a man who just simply knows how to win it. No one has influenced or graced more Premier League seasons. No player has ever won as many Premier League winners medals. I am of course talking about the Welsh Wizard that is, Ryan Giggs.
I was watching a programme on Sky Sports the other day where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Ryan Giggs as the “greatest ever Manchester United player.” That alone is a testament to just how influential Giggs was to his team mates, not just to his fans. From a personal point of view Giggs is the reason I follow Manchester United. Giggs is the reason I love football as much as I do. Watching a man ghost past defenders like they weren’t even there on a weekly basis, playing football in the right and exciting way, it changed the way I approached life let alone sport.
That may seem sentimental but for me Ryan Giggs is and was the near perfect footballer. All the plaudits in recent years has been about the way Paul Scholes dominated the midfield for twenty plus years. But in my opinion Giggs was as good and as important as the likes of Scholes. Giggs adapted the way he played football in conjunction with the way his body aged, he changed his limitations into strengths. He moved into the centre of midfield to partner the likes of Scholes, Keane, Smith and Carrick because he didn’t have that lightning pace that we saw from Giggs in the 90s. He could pass a ball with pin point accuracy with what can only be described as a wand. Not a foot. But a wand. He even appeared at left back a couple of times for United in his glistening career for the Red Devils.
On the field Ryan Giggs is the model pro. Off it, he made mistakes, we all do and all have but did that deter him? No, it simply made him more determined to stay at the top of his game and for longer. He started doing Yoga fairly vigorously, to not only help with recovery time post matches but also to keep himself sharp and match fit all the way into his 40s.
As my favourite ever player, Giggs is also the man who has scored my favourite ever Manchester United goal. No, it isn’t the glorious solo effort at Villa Park to humble and silence Arsenal. It was the same season however. A picturesque Champions League night at Old Trafford, a Juventus side with a midfield of Davids, Conte and Zidane were the opponents. An Antonio Conte strike had seen Juventus lead and claim the vital away goal. A Teddy Sheringham header was ruled out as offside and United looked clueless, hopeless and deflated. But then in the last minute (of course)…
Beckham hooks the ball in from the right and a surge of players sees the ball flicked on and with the most perfect of sidewards volleys Ryan Giggs has hit the roof of the back of the net. 1-1, Old Trafford erupts.
That goal kept United in it and kick started the season back into life. And of course we all know how that season ended for Giggs and his side. More silverware for the collection for Giggs.
Hamstring niggles saw his pace decrease slightly, but almost increased his other abilities. Like some sort of inverted version of Daredevil, Giggs lost his most devastating trait to a certain degree but his other senses and footballing abilities enhanced. His vision and ability to make something out of nothing with killer through balls heightened. I can sum it up with one moment. For me and I’m sure every other Manchester United fan, the greatest Ryan Giggs moment of the last five years. Old Trafford, 20th September 2009. 96th minute. Manchester United 3-3 Manchester City. A free kick is played into the box by Wayne Rooney, cleared to the man. Ryan Giggs 30 odd yards to the goal, a sea and barrage of Man City shirts charging the Welshman down. He has the composure and the talent to play the most glorious of through balls to Michael Owen to score the winner. Sitting here watching it, still giving me goosebumps. The pass makes the goal, without Giggs’ awareness and ability, Michael Owen doesn’t even get a chance to score and make history.
Ryan Giggs played for England at schoolboy level. He was never going to play for the Three Lions at senior level but think just how good England would have been with a permanent left winger who was on a par with Gascoigne in his prime. For me, England would have won the World Cup in 2002 had Ronaldinho’s free kick not sailed over Seaman’s head. In my mind England would have won it with ease had we presented to the Brazilians a midfield of Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes and Giggs. Frightening. Absolutely frightening to contemplate.
Ryan Giggs for me is the greatest ever Premier League player and also one of the greatest ever British players. Quite simply, he was the best. All I win to end it is present Ryan Giggs’ club honours for Manchester United.
Premier League Titles (13) – 92-93, 93-94, 95-96, 96-97, 98-99, 99-00, 00-01, 02-03, 06-07, 07-08, 08-09, 10-11, 12-13
FA Cup (4) – 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004
League Cup (3) – 91-92, 05-06, 08-09
Community Shield (9) – 93, 94, 96, 97, 03, 07, 08, 10, 13
UEFA Champions League (2) – 1999, 2008
UEFA Super Cup – 1991
Intercontinental Cup – 1999
FIFA Club World Cup – 2008
He has also won countless amounts of individual honours including the 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, been included in the PFA Team of the year no more than 6 times as well as appearing in Teams of the Century and Decades.
Ryan Giggs tore defences apart for years and will one day tear up technical areas. Simply put, the best.
Don’t forget to check out tomorrow’s edition of Greatest Premier League Players ever when Matt Yates talks us through his pick