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.