So, Ryan Giggs is 40, or at least he will be by the end of the week.
It must be something that they put in the water or the milk in Wales, as another United winger, Billy Meredith (who hailed from Chirk) played until he was 50. Meredith, however, was not a one-club man, but he was still on United’s books at the age of 47. Somehow even the modern day Peter Pan will not manage to surpass that.
Before moving on to the youngster called Giggs, the achievements of Meredith is even more remarkable as everything was so different in his playing days. The condition of the pitches, the playing kit and actual physical condition of the players themselves. Could our Ryan have lasted as long back in the late 1890’s early 1900’s?
“He has played rugby for Lancashire, he enjoys most sports and likes to watch T.V. or attend discos. He has signed for Manchester United F.C. and sees his future in a redshirt at Old Trafford” so said the pen picture of a young Ryan Wilson in the programme for the England Schools v Scotland Schools at Old Trafford on April 21st 1989. Little did he know then what the future would hold.
Under the guidance of (Sir) Alex Ferguson, the re-born Mancunian, or should that be Salfordian? was kept on the straight and narrow, learning his craft like any true apprentice. A mirror image of George Best he certainly was, but only to a certain extent, as although failing to captivate the world stage like the Irishman, his haul of silverware and longevity in the red shirt surpassed that of the Belfast Boy by a country mile.
Giggs has surprised many, or indeed most, by the length of his career with United, as it is not too long ago that we all thought that we had seen the best of the player and his time at the club was drawing to a close. Yes, may well have seen his best performances, but his career was far from over.
Picking out that special Ryan Giggs moment is a bit like asking countless United supporters what their most memorable moment as a United supporter was. Most would go for that balmy (or was that barmy?) night in Barcelona in ’99, with the answer to the Ryan Giggs question being the night at Villa park a few weeks previously.
Other than Ryan, perhaps only Bestie could have scored that goal against Arsenal.
But at 40, how long can he go on? Hints of a further years contract have been bandied about, but his days as a first team regular are long since gone and he would be the first to admit it, but he still has a part to play. His experience can be beneficial in crucial games, but it is from the touchline that those years and the games will come to the fore, guiding the new wave of United youngsters through the early years of their careers. None, however, will surpass their teacher.
Ryan Giggs is a one-off. Yes like George Best. A modern day phenomenon. Whether or not there will ever be a statue at Old Trafford for the former Moorside schoolboy is debatable, but his name will be forever etched into the United history books and his will be a career at the club that will never be beaten .
You can buy ‘Manchester United 1958-68: Rising from the Wreckage’ by Iain McCartney from Amberley Publishing HERE, Amazon HERE or Waterstones HERE.