Date: 30th November 2010 at 6:00pm
Written by:

Having celebrated his 37th birthday yesterday, I was reminded of a ‘conversation’ I had with some people on Twitter last week in regards to Ryan Giggs.

Surely a legend in the eyes of all including those that do not support United, Ryan Giggs’ career has been exemplary. Having made his Unite bow in 1991 aged 17, Giggs has won numerous League titles, FA Cups and European Cups amongst other things. When he first emerged, he was highly touted and people spoke of him as the hottest talent to come out of Britain since George Best but has he lived up to that expectation?

Sounds like a crazy question given all he has won and achieved but through the course of the conversation a few good points were raised:

But despite this latest run of form, Giggs will always be a conundrum who never quite met his Harvey Freeman. An indisputable great, a player who epitomises the youthful flair and aesthetic beauty that make United United, he’s also the most frustrating I’ve ever known and loved.

The other very best players of my United-watching career – Robson, Keane, Cantona, Schmeichel, Scholes, van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo – were all far more consistent, and generally played with greater intensity when things were going badly. And each one, with the exception of Scholes, carried the team for significant periods of time – something Giggs has never done.

To an extent he’s a victim of his position; it’s hard to dominate a game from the wing, and it’s hard to play well if you’re reliant on service, though others have managed. But the unarsed body language, the bottled one-on-one in the 2003 home derby (a personal grudge), and the 2004-6 vanishing act remain severe and genuine charges.

To borrow Fergie’s phrase, pinched from Paddy Crerand, a discussion of his time in the shirt can leave you with blood as twisted as those who endured the horror of marking him on a good day; not so of the others with whom he shares the pantheon. Judging him by his own stratospheric standards, any honest evaluation of his career leaves you wondering why he hasn’t been brilliant more often.

And yet he’s still close to the very top category. At his best, he’s still the best, and it’s sad to think that one day there’ll be a United without him.

Reading that, some people will take the point being made the wrong way but I personally don’t think that it is so much a criticism rather a praise of a supremely talented player. If Giggs was not as talented as we know he is, then such questions could not be asked.

You will be hard pressed to find anyone who can disagree with the point about his influence in comparison to players like van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo, Cantona etc as well as the point about being able to influence a game properly from the wing but it cannot be denied how much of a contribution Giggs has actually made and one thing I feel that perhaps wasn’t taken into consideration is how much the hamstring injuries hindered him.

Reading his latest book it gives you a real insight into the problem which first popped up in 1995 and by his own admission would trouble him at least twice a season. Whilst he has found a number of things to help alleviate the problem (Giggsy is a yoga guru didn’t you know!?), it has  still been a problem and one that struck him before he even had a chance to enter his peak years.

Speaking to The Guardian ahead of Ryan winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award his brother Rhodri revealed,

I don’t think many people know that from about 2002-03, because he was having problems with his hamstrings, Ryan stopped going flat out. He’s not even been flat out for the last seven or eight years.

an astounding claim that again puts the situation into perspective.

I personally think that Giggs has been and is an astounding player but you can’t deny some of the points made above, if Giggs hasn’t soared to the heights that were expected of him it can be forgiven, his contribution without reaching these heights is still a lot better than many if not most who will ever lace boots and we can only wonder what a Ryan Giggs without bad hamstrings would have brought to the table.


24 responses to “Can Giggs be mentioned in the same breath as Cantona and Robbo?”

  1. Simon says:

    Imo Giggs is one of greatest players to ever play the game. It should not be “Can Giggs be mentioned with these players” But the other way around. 11 LEGEND

  2. Chudi Onwuazor says:

    That’s the key point Jonathan, even if he didn’t carry the team he was more than a key component and longevity is definitely another factor, your point on Van Basten, Best and Maradona is very poignant.

    I don’t think what the person is trying to say is that Giggs isn’t a top player, I would question any United ‘supporter’ that suggested such a thing, I think his thing is more along the lines that he expected Giggs to be a Best etc players like that are rare and unique and Giggs is his own player and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like to be compared to anyone rather looked at on his own merits and achievements.

    Who is to say in 20/30 years people will be saying can so and so be mentioned in the same breath as Giggs, I wouldn’t doubt it

  3. gigg foreva says:

    giggs is a legend giggs is god giggsy will always be remembed as a united legend and me i love the guy long live and long play on ryan giggs what a player united great from day 1

  4. Carl says:

    Don’t care what this article says.As far as i’m concerned, Giggs is the third greatest United player ever, just behind Charlton and Best. He ticks all the boxes to being a true great- Talent, Achievements, Professionalism, Longevity and putting the team first.
    Do people forget the amount of important games he has won for United by that left foot of his?
    He is one of the games greatest wingers of all time.
    This article says he didn’t dominate matches compared to others such as Keane,Cantona ,Ruud and Ronaldo. Rubbish. He’s a winger. Wingers don’t dominate matches, central midfieders do.Who provided all those assists for Ruud. Players like Giggs and Scholes. As if Van Nistlerooy just took on teams by himself. Keane was dominating, but he had to be due to his limited talent. If he wasn’t he wouldn’t have been in the team. Cantona was a great player for us, but I can’t recall him ever doing it for us in the big, big European games. Which leaves us with Ronaldo. Yes he got all those goals for us, but if you anaylse his game performances, their not that great compared to his goal record. And in big matches, he has gone missing for us.

  5. Red Knights have done a runner says:

    What a stupid flipping article.
    Shame on you for writing such a stupid, disrespectful article towards a guy whose earned the tag, legend.
    Can you please some details on your background, such as do you really support united or even follow football.
    Have you actualy ever been to a match.
    After i get these answers, i can assure you il never be logging on to your blog.
    You come across as an absolute moron.
    I’m tryin hard not to swear at you but boy it’s fucking hard not to.
    fuck off you tosser

  6. fateh says:

    this is the dumbest article ever so fucking stupid. whoever wrote this article is fucking stupid. Giggs is a legend thats why fergie has never let him go. his dominated the left side of midfield for 20 years

  7. Yashi says:

    I think the following point has been made a few times already: this article isn’t about whether Giggs is a legend or not, it’s whether he is in the same league as Cantona or Robbo.

    I consider him to be a legend (we all do), alongside the Charltons, the Bests,…etc But sometimes, his longevity seems to be one of the main reasons, which is fair enough. Playing more than 800 games at the top level for one club only, he is definitely in a different class. I think the article tries to explore the impact of Giggs, beyond his longevity, on the team compared to Cantona’s for example. If Giggs had played for United for 5 years only, would he be mentioned in the same breath as Cantona? If he had played for 6 years only, I don’t think he would come anywhere near Ronaldo. But it doesn’t mean he is not one of our best players of all time. I think he has been consistent (with the exception of a few years here and there, something which happens to all players and also bear in mind he is 37, he’s had a long career!). I think I will mention him in the same breath as Cantona, football after all is not about that brilliant lob or last minute goal, it’s also about representing the club, performing professionally and being consistently at the top of the game.

    Still I think it’s good to debate about his impact rather than just idolise him because of his 800-plus appearances for Utd, THAT goal against Arsenal and his professionalism, which most fans seem to do (again not a bad thing). Don’t we want to appreciate him for more? CAN we appreciate him for more than that? Why is it retarded to think about that??

  8. Eleven says:

    The word stupid, is meaningless! We need to invent a new word for this b*l*s*h*t.

    Am only going to refer to the king! As he’s an undisputed utd legend, the reason we hold him in such a high esteem is cos the goals he scored or the way he dominated a game (more like epl in case) and who wad by his side? And who was his side making those assist?

    Cantona once said him and Giggs had telepathic link, like he knew were Giggs gonna put the ball, and the reason y Cantona retired early was cos he didn’t want the fans to remembers him as faded legend in his mid 30. wanted leave on high note which did (personally still had lot more to offer) by comparison Giggs still playing at the highest level at his age speaks volume!

    don’t know y i bothered to read this article. :/

  9. There is certainly a great deal to find out about this issue. I love all the points you’ve made.

  10. A lot of whatever you articulate is supprisingly precise and that makes me wonder why I had not looked at this in this light previously. Your piece really did turn the light on for me as far as this topic goes. Nevertheless there is actually just one point I am not too comfortable with and whilst I attempt to reconcile that with the main theme of the issue, permit me see exactly what all the rest of your visitors have to point out.Very well done.