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Spot-on Giggs overtakes Charlton

Ryan Giggs (r) and Nani celebrate with the trophy after the win over Chelsea

By Peter Shuttleworth

Ryan Giggs refuses to believe what all the fuss is about.

But the understated legend who claims "records mean nothing" might just have to start believing the hype after scoring the penalty that won the Champions League final and breaking the club's appearance record on one of the greatest nights of a staggering career.

Manchester United's landmark man completed one of the most sensational achievements in modern-day football in Moscow on Wednesday.

When the Welsh winger appeared as an 87th minute substitute against Chelsea, Giggs broke arguably the toughest record of them all.

606: DEBATE
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Forget the first all-English European Cup final for a moment, Giggs surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton's 758-game feat to become United's all-time record appearance holder is the stuff of legend.

But that achievement, for all its glory, was just the appetiser as, with the penalty shoot-out entering sudden death, Giggs stepped up to score the decisive spot kick and secure Manchester United's third triumph in European football's premier club competition.

And it was only fitting that Giggs should score the penalty that saw him add to a career roll of honour that players dream about.

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Archive - Giggs causes a stir in 1994

An unprecedented 10 championship titles, a Professional Footballers' Association team of the century place, scorer of one of the greatest-ever FA Cup goals, joint record for FA Cup trophy wins and the only player to score in every Premier and Champions League campaign - oh and those two Champions League successes. Not bad for starters.

But Giggs - the first British footballer to be featured in The Simpsons - is an endangered species. The last of a dying breed.

Any footballer that emulates Giggs' accomplishment would be a freak in this rigorous world of 21st Century football.

Giggs, AC Milan idol Paolo Maldini and Real Madrid icon Raul are the greatest one-club men of their generation. Just look at their medals.

Yet the longevity of Giggs, now the proud owner of a 20th major medal spanning his 18 years as a professional, is an achievement in itself bearing in mind he is a winger who has spent his record-breaking days dazzling defenders with trickery, pace, athleticism, movement and power in the most physically demanding league in the world.

"That's why if you asked any player or pundit in the world which left-winger is in their ultimate dream team, they'd say Ryan Giggs," said his first Manchester United captain Bryan Robson.

THE LIFE OF RYAN
Ryan Giggs celebrates United's 1999 Champions League win over Bayern Munich
Date of Birth: 29 November, 1973
Place of Birth: Cardiff
Position: Left-winger/attacker
Man Utd appearances (goals): 759 (144)
Wales caps (goals): 64 (13)
Man Utd debut: v Everton, 2 March, 1991
Man Utd honours: 2 Champions League, 10 League titles, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 6 Community Shields, 1 Uefa Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup
Did You Know?: Giggs' skills were honed at Manchester City's School of Excellence

"Ryan has fantastic balance, he's quick, a great athlete and lately his composure in the final third has improved."

Giggs has been a constant for Sir Alex Ferguson as the Old Trafford supremo etched himself into footballing folklore as the most decorated English manager as United basked in a golden era matched only in history by Liverpool's dominance of the late 1970s and early 80s.

And now that English football's most decorated player has etched his name even more firmly into the annals of his club's history he has surely ensured that his achievements will prove unsurpassable.

For the man Ferguson said gave defenders "twisted blood" has made it in the most unforgiving football era.

It's not just the greater physical and mental demands since Charlton's days but if Giggs' greatness had ever subsided then there is no more ruthless manager than Sir Alex.

"If Ryan could no longer contribute to Manchester United then Sir Alex would be the first one to tell him," said Giggs' former Wales team-mate Dean Saunders.

"United can't afford to carry passengers and if Giggs' standards had dropped then Fergie would have just opened the cheque book and replaced him with another world-class player because the United boss has no sentiment.

"But Sir Alex hasn't needed to because there has been no-one better than Ryan and he knows much of his success is down to the industry, vision and creativity of Ryan Giggs and whenever Fergie has celebrated winning a trophy at United, Ryan has always been with him.

"Players with Ryan's footballing brain are rare breeds; he's more than a left-winger, he can play in any attacking position and if you make the right run he'll see the pass - that's why he's still at United."

Giggs was the first superstar of the Premier League era but he never fell foul of the trappings of celebrity.

Ryan Giggs receives an OBE from The Queen in 2007
Ryan Giggs is the prototype that every youngster should want to copy

Terry Venables

"He is one of the game's great ambassadors," former England boss Terry Venables told BBC Sport.

"He is the prototype that every youngster should want to copy."

England's 'Captain Marvel' Robson, who played when Giggs made his United debut, added: "He has an unbreakable winning mentality and attitude to want to improve himself whenever he is faced with a challenge.

"There was once talk of him leaving United but he simply reinvented himself and became even better. A player with that much drive and focus is hard to find."

"Ryan is a role model both on and off the field," said former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Saunders who played in Giggs' Wales debut in an otherwise forgettable 4-1 defeat to West Germany in Nuremburg in 1993.

Giggs' 64-cap Wales career is the one barren area on an otherwise glittering CV.

Even Arsenal's Brazilian star Gilberto Silva admitted: "In his prime, Ryan Giggs could have represented any country in the world - even Brazil!

"To play regularly for a great and successful club like Manchester United for so long, you have to be a bit special."

Giggs had two close shots at major championship qualification - one of which was the Euro 2004 play-off defeat to Russia.

But it was in the Russian capital Moscow on the occasion of his 104th Champions League match that the 34-year-old secured perhaps the defining image of his glorious career.

And, as Saunders sums up: "He is one of those unique players where I can one day tell my grandkids that I once played in the same team as Ryan Giggs."



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see also
Man Utd earn dramatic Euro glory
22 May 08 |  Europe
Ferguson delight at Euro success
21 May 08 |  Man Utd
Chelsea rally round skipper Terry
21 May 08 |  Chelsea
Grant can hold his head high
22 May 08 |  Europe
Ferguson's ascent to greatness
21 May 08 |  Man Utd
Pundits on Moscow final
21 May 08 |  Europe
Champions League photos
21 May 08 |  Europe
Enter the sporting Dragon
16 May 08 |  Wales
Giggs's title triumphs
12 May 08 |  Man Utd
Charlton hails Giggs achievement
12 May 08 |  Man Utd
Giggs aiming for coaching future
21 Feb 08 |  Football
OBE honour for United hero Giggs
11 Dec 07 |  Manchester
Profile: Ryan Giggs
26 Nov 07 |  Wales
Giggs ends international career
30 May 07 |  Internationals
Ryan Giggs career photos
30 May 07 |  Football
Ryan Giggs in a league of his own
01 Mar 07 |  Man Utd
Giggs: Good enough for greatness?
12 Nov 03 |  Man Utd
The teenage tornado
12 Nov 03 |  Man Utd


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