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Ryan mighty hopes for 21st party

Ryan Giggs

By Peter Shuttleworth

How fitting would it be that Wales' Ryan Giggs, the man hailed as "footballing perfection", celebrates his coming of footballing age on St David's Day?

Giggs - remembered as the "scrawny kid with dodgy hair" - will celebrate the 18th anniversary of his United debut on Monday.

And a perfect celebration would be winning his 21st major trophy for Manchester United in their Carling Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday as United continue their unprecedented quintet charge.

THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF RYAN
Ryan Giggs celebrates winning his second Champions League title
Date of Birth: 29 November, 1973
Place of Birth: Cardiff
Position: Left-winger/attacker
Man Utd appearances (goals): 790 (147)
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, 1 FIFA Club World Cup
Did You Know?: Giggs' skills were honed at Manchester City's School of Excellence

A record 10 championship crowns; two Champions League titles; United's all-time appearance record-holder; the only player to have scored in every Champions League and Premier League campaign has ensured football immortality for the former Wales captain and member of the Professional Footballers' Association team of the century.

And he is enjoying the twilight of a sensational career which shows no signs of slowing down.

Giggs made his United debut in a 2-0 league defeat to Everton at Old Trafford on 2 March 1991 as a replacement for Denis Irwin.

To put that in perspective, highly-rated United youngster Danny Welbeck was just three months old.

"It's no surprise that Giggsy is still going so strong," said Gary Pallister, who was in the United team that day.

"He is never going to carry any weight, he's still as slim looking as he was when he first started out - and who knows how long he can carry on? I can see him going on until he is 37 or 38."

Neville Southall, Giggs' one-time Wales team-mate, was Everton's goalkeeper that afternoon and recalls: "I'd heard the hype beforehand and when he came on I thought what a scrawny, thin kid with dodgy hair!

"But he had incredible blistering pace, dribbling ability, superb balance and great vision for a teenager - and you could immediately see the comparisons with George Best.

"Over the years you've seen hyped-up kids come on the scene and disappear into the abyss but Giggs has surpassed anyone's wildest expectations."

Giggs is the only constant fixture in Ferguson's Premier League dominance.

Ferguson's association goes back a long way - to him visiting Giggs' house on his 14th birthday to persuade the Manchester City school of excellence pupil to swap allegiances and sign for United.

Ryan Giggs
Ryan is a Rolls Royce footballer and you don't take your Rolls Royce for a drive everyday....You only take it out of the garage for special occasions

Wales legend Neville Southall

The one-club man is the last of a dying breed and has the honour of being United's most decorated player - an honour which will probably never be beaten in these modern days of transfer frenzy.

"Ryan Giggs is as near to footballing perfection as you're ever going to find," insists Southall.

"He has the temperament, technical ability, dedication, work ethic, the attitude; he's good in the air, he can tackle, he is exquisite passer, a great crosser, has wonderful vision and can still beat a man if he wants.

"But it's his footballing brain that stands out. He has the intelligence, awareness and adaptability to play in every position and look accomplished.

"As Ryan has got older, he doesn't waste energy making needless runs as he knows where and when to be on the field and what to do with the ball when he gets it.

"That's something you can't coach. United have honed it but his incredible brain is something you're born with.

"And both on and off the field, he is a role model... no-one has a bad word to say about Ryan Giggs.

"Yet because he is quiet and unassuming, he probably doesn't get the credit he deserves."

Giggs was the first superstar of the Premier League era - never falling for the trapping of celebrity - and the first to be featured in The Simpsons.

He is the last of an endangered species, in a modern-day one-man-club elite alongside AC Milan idol Paolo Maldini and Real Madrid icon Raul.

"What he has achieved I doubt will ever be surpassed," said his former Wales and Everton captain Kevin Ratcliffe, who marked Giggs on his debut.

606: DEBATE

"There is no bigger player in the world at the moment than Ryan Giggs. And the biggest compliment you could pay him that every young player United will produce will be compared to Ryan Giggs.

"Maldini, Raul and Giggs are one-club men at three of Europe's top clubs but the type of football Ryan has been involved in is much more intense.

"It is much more difficult for a midfielder or a winger due to the lung-busting runs and energy needed - and it's in the Premier League, the toughest league in the world.

"It takes an incredible toll on the body and it's a credit to Ryan that he still performs to the very highest standard."

Ferguson utilises his Mr Reliable sparingly these days but after a starring role in United's Champions League draw in Milan in midweek he is expected to play some part against Spurs on Sunday.

But as Southall points out: "Ryan is a Rolls Royce footballer and you don't take you're Rolls Royce for a drive every day.

"You take it out of the garage once in a while for special occasions to show it off but it keep wrapped up in cotton wool for the rest of the time. No-one wants a high-mileage Rolls Royce."

Wales' loss since Giggs' international retirement has been his club's gain and while there are legs on Manchester United's number 11, the accolades and achievements will keep coming.

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see also
Carling Cup showdown
27 Feb 09 |  League Cup
Alan Hansen's column
16 Feb 09 |  Football
Spot-on Giggs overtakes Charlton
21 May 08 |  Man Utd
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
The teenage tornado
12 Nov 03 |  Man Utd


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