Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have a combined 48 years of service to Manchester United Football Club but which one of the legendary veterans has been most important after all these years?
It’s almost an unthinkable question – how can you possibly compare two exceptionally gifted and decorated players who have together been a huge part of Manchester United and British footballing history and who remain today, the very best of professionals?
Giggs, now 39 years of age, arrived at United from rivals Manchester City’s School of Excellence in the Christmas period of 1986 when he underwent a trial with new manager Alex Ferguson who had just arrived himself from Aberdeen.
In many ways the career trajectory of Ferguson is intertwined with that of his Welsh-born youth signing. He eventually signed his first professional contract with United on 1st December 1990 at the age of just 17.
One year later his youth teammate, one year his junior, Paul Scholes who had been working his way up through United’s junior ranks since the age of 14, signed his first professional contract with the club.
Manchester United won two consecutive FA Youth Cups in 1992 and 1993 with a team consisting of David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, and eventually Phil Neville and Paul Scholes.
Scholes made his senior debut just a year later against Port Vale in the Football League Cup. Giggs had made his in 1991 against Everton and had already earned himself a reputation as one of United’s most promising protégés.
Between the two the they’ve made an incredible 1,644 appearances to date and still remain fit, ready and raring to go whenever their manager requires their assistance on the pitch or in the dressing room where they provide experience, professionalism, ambition and excellent to the highest possible degree.
Giggs scored his 168th goal for United last Saturday against QPR whilst Scholes has netted 155 goals for the club. The latter is undoubtedly one of the greats of English football – he’s been simply sublime as the nucleus in the heart of United midfield for the last two decades.
His passing, his vision, his determination to press, to win back the ball, to tackle to set the tone is surely unrivalled in the land. Only the likes of Xavi and Andrea Pirlo could possibly belong in the same breath as Paul Scholes.
His love for the game, like Giggs’, eclipses that of certain prima-donna publicity seeking former teammates of theirs – where some chased fame and riches, these two modest and humble men chased titles and medals season after season after season.
Giggs’ technique and skill on the ball has been breathtaking – his ability to go past his man on that left wing is the reason United’s strikers have performed so well. The way he has re-defined himself to play in the centre over the past three seasons has been a joy to watch too, a credit to his fitness and intelligence.
He’s been the assisting architect for the likes of Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Teddy Sherringham, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney, and Robin van Persie.
His delivery is second to none bar David Beckham but his work-rate on the opposite flank eclipses that of his English counterpart’s.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr Posh may regret leaving Old Trafford when he notes the success and the status that has been afforded to his former teammates who United fans will forever be indebted to for 12 titles, 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, and two Champion’s League trophies.
They could both likely both retire at the end of this season or next, or Giggs may outlast Scholes by another year, but they will remain imprinted indelibly on the minds and in the hearts of Manchester United fans the world over.
Ryan Giggs’ reception at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this month shows the respect he has abroad for his service to football and, with respect to Scholes, Giggs has a couple of extra years of service and just a handful more goals and that is all that separates the pair and the fact that they have never been separated is a testament to one man only – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Which legend has played the more crucial role over the years in your view, if you had to choose?
image: © Nasmac