Mick Hucknall is a well reported Manchester United fan.
Whilst out of the spotlight now, the fiery haired singer has had many hits and is living comfortably in Catania, Sicily off the back of what was essentially a bright music career. At the peak of his fame he probably made millions and he claims he slept with up to 3 women a day. Whether you choose to believe that or not is up to you but looking at it, money, fame and women are 3 things many of us get caught up in the rat race for so Mick hasn’t done too badly for himself.
Despite the awards and everything he has accrued in his years I would fathom a bet that the fact he penned a song that encapsulates the career, or at least the latter stages, of one of the greatest players to have ever played for his club must make him silently pleased.
If I say ‘Holding back the years’ then ask you to associate those words with a United player Ryan Giggs would and should be the first player to spring to mind. Whilst he may not have ‘held back tears’ or ‘wasted years’, Ryan Giggs has indeed held back the years.
Words like ‘evergreen’ are constantly used to describe Giggs and it isn’t without good reason as the holder of the club’s record for most appearances continues to turn up his nose to Father Time with performances that befit men much younger than he.
In recent years rival fans has poured scorn on the praise Giggs has received and a running joke amongst them is to question whether Giggs has been the recipient of an award, no matter if he is even elegible. For example I recall seeing Liverpool fans (a detestable bunch at the best of times) questioning whether there would be a recount when Barak Obama was announced as the President of the United States of America and not Giggs.
Whilst this churlish humour may raise a smirk amongst non United fans, secretly they will be seething that a man who made his first team debut way back in 1991 is still running their players and their teams in general ragged because Ryan Giggs, at 37 and in his 20th season at Old Trafford, is deserving of every bit of praise he receives.
Evolution, if you believe in that sort of thing, in its most base definition states only the strong survive. Those that can adapt, that can keep one step ahead will continue to flourish whilst those that can’t eventually die out. In footballing terms as the game has changed and people change we have seen players ‘die out’. Fat Ronaldo died out, Ronaldinho’s decline was remarkable and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person shocked at the shell of a player Thierry Henry looked when he came on against Arsenal at the Emirates in last season’s Champions League.
These aren’t average players, these are brilliant players who at the peak of their powers ruled the game but unfortunately couldn’t ‘evolve’ to ensure they lasted just that bit longer. So as Ronaldinho has gone back to Brazil, Ronaldo has retired and Henry is playing out his days in America, Ryan Giggs is still testing himself against the best in both England and Europe and satisfyingly coming out on top!
When he finally does hang up his boots, people will say of Ryan Giggs he could leave a defender dead with either a bit of trickery or pace and that he was an excellent winger but just as important as this was his ability to remodel his game when his career as a winger began to wind down.
Giggs has shown an ability to adapt that would have had Darwin gushing and in this his ‘second’ career he has proved himself just as valuable.
When the going gets tough it is always good to be able to rely on your best players and in Giggs we have an ever reliable player as we have seen in the past few weeks. 2 goals down against West Ham a fortnight ago, Sir Alex decided to roll the dice and in a tactically astute move Ryan Giggs ended up at left back. Not many players can just be thrown in at left back and acquit themselves as well as Giggs did, but with the experience and nous he possess he even managed to set up the fourth goal as Hernandez turned in his cross.
Although a team player, Ryan Giggs probably wouldn’t choose to play at left back again but against Chelsea in a more familiar position, central midfield, United again benefitted for his experience and ability. Over two legs in the quarter final Ryan Giggs set up all 3 of our goals but it’s not just the assists that proved his worth as his overall performance in both games was outstanding.
Following his contribution last night Sir Alex enthused about the Welshman,
“He’s incredible, a unique person and player. It’s a great contribution and his experience and composure were vital.”
And he wasn’t alone in singing Giggs’ praise as all through the press journalists lined up to pay homage to him. Jim White of The Telegraph half jokingly suggested that Ryan Giggs was the man Abramovich should have broken the bank for whilst the MEN remarked that the ‘evergreen’ winger “keeps coming up with moments of genius”.
In the center of the pitch he pulled the strings and put in measured performances that stood in juxtaposition to the fast and furious wing play that we usually associate with him. His touch past Bosingwa and ball to Rooney for our goal at the Bridge was brilliant, the cross for Hernandez and the ball to Park at Old Trafford oozed a class that was almost palpable.
This isn’t something new from Giggs and every season it seems he comes back fresh and with the triumph or hurt of the last season forgotten, ready to start anew. It’s this hunger, desire and drive that also helps push him beyond the normal player but we must accept that this won’t last forever.
There is only so long he can keep age at bay and whilst Sir Alex feels he can go on for 2 more seasons, this latest contract could very well be his last. I’d prefer to see him go out on the top anyway so barring an almighty fall from grace during the course of next season we will be left with nothing but good memories of Giggs when he retires even if we don’t win honours next season.
Inevitably Giggs will retire so I choose to bask in the brilliance of his performances now. His game may have changed, his role and the way he is used may have changed too but even if the hair may be thinner and graying and the legs may not be as fast, Giggs continues to hold back the years with age defying performances and for me that will do.