Manchester United's evergreen playmaker Ryan Giggs has been among the goals of late. How much longer can he carry on?
With the Barclays Premier League as good as wrapped up – you can’t see them letting a twelve point lead drift away after the heartache of May 2012 – Manchester United might be considering next season already and their triple assault on the league, domestic cup and conquering Europe.
The rumours are arising, as they do at this time every year, regarding the future of boss Sir Alex Ferguson, but a more intriguing question currently remains unanswered. While we can accept that Fergie will go on for as long as he feels he can keep taking the club onwards, a legend of similar stature Ryan Giggs is approaching the end of his current contract with no decision made as yet about his future.
The 39-year old made his debut for the 19-time English champions back in March 1991 against Everton at Old Trafford and has now racked up 999 senior appearances for club, country and Team GB in this summer’s Olympics. Earlier in the current campaign, Giggs was finding himself playing one game in three and being used as a substitute or replaced for the younger, more exuberant legs of the likes of Ashley Young, Nani, Danny Welbeck or Tom Cleverley; but in recent weeks the Welshman has been a regular face in the United team, contributing with goals against Everton and Queens Park Rangers in the last two league games, keeping up his record of having scored in every Premier League season since its inception back in 1991/92 – the only player to do so.
The question that has arisen now is whether Giggs should play on into his 40s – a birthday he will have in November this year. The problem so many footballers at a similar age to Giggs is that they seem to play on for one year too many and become a shadow of their former selves. Players reach the pinnacle of their career around the age of 30, and many choose to bow out with success – a league title, a cup final appearance or reaching an international competition – while other’s let their advancing years and injuries make the decision for them.
Goalkeepers can get away with playing as they get into their 40s as there is much less physical work to get through. Sure, they still have to be agile and command their penalty areas, but they’re not expected to cover the amount of ground as the likes of Giggs. When midfielders and defenders – and to an extent strikers too – reach a certain age, you can visibly see from the stands that they’re not living up to their previous standards. When they used to be charging around after every loose ball, beating three opponents and rifling a shot in the top corner (like Giggs against Arsenal at Villa Park), that’s how you should be able to remember them.
I know when I tried to replicate that famous FA Cup semi-final replay goal, I bought some training gear and spent weeks trying to weave between the imaginary defenders, took it to my club and felt I could beat anyone, just like Ryan Giggs. I don’t want to sit and watch a legend of the British game fade into a shadow of his former self. Fans only remember the last few months of a career, not the whole lot unfortunately.
Personally, I believe that Giggs is showing he can still mix it with not only the up-and-coming talent in the Premier League, but some of the biggest and most celebrated names in European football. You only have to look at the reception he was given by all within the Bernabeu when he came on as a sub in the Champions League game between United and Real Madrid. While it could be said – and was said – that the ovation was to celebrate his 150th European appearance, it’s a fact that is was genuine respect from the Madrid faithful who would not have enjoyed seeing him come on the field. The fact that he should have drilled a first time strike into the corner is a different matter!
Giggsy – I said this when Edwin van der Sar was contemplating his future – one more year!