Has Giggs Overtaken Best as a United Legend..? We Look at the Career of the Welsh Wonder at 40

by Rob Shepherd.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Ryan Giggs has just turned 40.

I last interviewed him at the World Cup finals in France in 1998. He wasn’t there playing of course but was doing some gigs for sponsors.

Eventually I asked him the obvious, and to him, annoying, question; Did he not wish that instead of being in this hotel foyer in Paris he was with the England squad in St Etienne, preparing for the match against Argentina?

Giggs sighed: ‘Can we put this one to rest once and for all. I wouldn’t have wanted to play for England even had I qualified. I am Welsh.

‘I was born in Wales. All my relatives are Welsh. Under the rules the only country I could play for is Wales.’

No split loyalties: Giggs says he always wanted to play for Wales and not for The Three Lions

‘Yes I’d love to play in a World Cup and hopefully I will with Wales one day. But it’s not the be all and end all for me. There are a lot of good players who haven’t played at a World Cup.’

Like George Best, who in many ways Giggs has surpassed as a Manchester United legend – certainly so in terms of longevity. Best’s United career was over by the age of 27.

Just to put the record straight, yes, Giggs DID play for England schoolboys because he went to school in Salford once he was on the books at United.

But such are the vagaries of FIFA’s current rules, it means a Belgian-born son of a Kosovan Albanian, United’s wannabe ‘New Giggs’, Adnan Januzaj, could qualify to play for England, but back then Ryan Giggs couldn’t.

It was never a debate. Never a choice. But neither does Giggs have any regrets on that front. And after all what a career it has been.

Below is a picture of Giggs making his first appearance at Old Trafford playing for Salford Boys against St Helens in 1989.

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Back to the start: Giggs pictured playing for the first time at Old Trafford, for Salford Boys

It is now 14 years since Ryan Giggs scored THAT goal against Arsenal in an FA Cup semi final replay which put United on the way to the Treble that season. Ronaldo and Messi eat your heart out…

Here is a look at Giggs’ career in numbers:

Premier League: 626 appearances (including 108 as substitute)
Division One: (pre-1992): 40 appearances (including seven as substitute)
FA Cup: 74 appearances (including 12 as substitute)
League Cup: 40 appearances (including six as substitute)
European Cup/Champions League: 148 appearances (including 23 as substitute)
European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 appearance
UEFA Cup: 5 appearances
Other matches (Charity/Community Shield, European Super Cup, Fifa Club World Cup): 19 appearances (including 3 as substitute)

Longevity: Giggs began his United career in 1991 and still played in the Champions League this week

He made his debut against Everton on 2 March 1991, coming off the bench to replace full-back Denis Irwin in a 2-0 defeat.

109 – Since scoring his first Premier League goal against Tottenham in a 1-1 draw on 19 September 1992, Giggs has gone on to hit the back of the net a further 108 times in the league. He has yet to score this season but has netted in every other year since the start of the Premier League.

34 – In Giggs’s time at Manchester United, he has won 34 trophies (13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, one European Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one Fifa Club World Cup and nine Charity/Community Shields), making him the most decorated player in English football history.

This is what they have said about Ryan Giggs:

‘I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and he floated across the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind.’ – Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

‘He’s an outstanding player and it’s a privilege to be working with him on my staff. I’ve seen something different since I’ve come here – just how good he is, close up – and it’s incredible.’ – Manchester United manager David Moyes

‘Only two players made me cry when watching football, one was Diego Maradona and the other Ryan Giggs.’ – Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero

‘Ryan Giggs for me is one of the best players in the world. Now maybe he is old but he is a fantastic player.’ – Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

‘Maybe one day people will say I was another Ryan Giggs.’ – Manchester United legend George Best

‘Eric Cantona is a great player, but he’s not as good as Ryan Giggs.’ – Dutch legend and three-time world player of the year Johan Cruyff

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