Friday, November 24, 2006
Giggs was one of United's most experienced and senior players at United when Denis Irwin left, and he become a pivotal part of the club. According to a BBC Sport article in 2003, "the trajectory of Giggs' United career follows that of the club almost exactly", underlining his importance to United.Giggs's form in the years after the achievements of 1999 were reflective of Manchester United's dominance of the English game up until 2003 (when the club won its last FA Premier League title)- with Giggs still relishing his left wing slot. United won the League title four times within those years, and had always made it to UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals at the very least. He celebrated his 10-year anniversary at Old Trafford with a testimonial match against Glasgow Celtic at the start of the 2001-02 campaign. A year later, he bagged his 100th career goal in a draw with Chelsea F.C. at Stamford Bridge.
With the departure of David Beckham to Real Madrid before the 2003-04 season, many United fans were concerned that the team would lose its world class set-piece threat which Beckham provided, at both shooting directly and also creating numerous chances from dead ball situations for his team-mates. However, on the opening day of the season, with United playing Bolton, Giggs had his first free-kick chance from 25 yards out. It should be noted that Giggs was very much United's first choice taker until Beckham emerged; indeed, Giggs' first goal for Wales was a memorable free-kick itself, against Belgium in 1993. Giggs, out of Beckham's shadow, curled a wonderfully hit free-kick which went in off the post leaving the goalkeeper helpless. The United fans saw the irony and chanted 'David who?' to Giggs' obvious amusement. Giggs also got the second in a comfortable 4-0 win.He managed to win the FA Cup once more in 2004, making him one of only two players (the other being Roy Keane) to have won the trophy four times.
He has also finished with a runners-up medal twice.His participation in the victory over Liverpool in September 2004 made him the third player to play 600 games for United, alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of his contribution to the English game. During the first half of the 2004-05 season, Giggs was linked in a transfer speculation with Newcastle United F.C., a club his best-friend at United, Nicky Butt, had left for. However, no move was made before the transfer window closed on 31 January 2005. In that season, Giggs still managed to churn out a 'masterclass performance' (in the words of Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler) when given the chance, and together with the old guard of Paul Scholes, looked to be the epitome of the football saying 'form is temporary, but class is permanent'. After that season, Giggs signed a two-year contract extension with Manchester United when chairman David Gill relented on his normal policy of not signing players over 30 to contracts longer than one year. The extension, which runs through to July 2008, will most probably keep him at Old Trafford for the remainder of his playing career.
Giggs has reinvented himself and continues to contribute positively to the Manchester United cause even after team-mates like David Beckham and Roy Keane had left. He has become the role model to the latest batch of talents at the club like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. Giggs is used today as an example, alongside Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, as a model professional for young players with hot tempers to follow.This is largely due to his upbringing by United manager Alex Ferguson, who has sheltered the player since developing him. It remains to be seen whether Giggs outstays his career mentor at the club or vice versa. His versatility has supplemented his raw skill and talent in recent years, and he has been called upon by his manager to play as a forward and a central midfielder for his team, roles in which he applied himself admirably. It is without question that Ryan Giggs will be ranked alongside the best wingers ever to play the game of football.