It has been a long time coming, but 18 years after making his debut, Ryan Giggs has picked up the Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year award.
The 35-year-old Manchester United veteran, who is in line to make his 800th first-team appearance this week if he plays against Arsenal in a Champions League semi-finals, was handed the ultimate accolade from his peers on Sunday.
The Welshman hopes it will be the first of three trophies he wins in the coming weeks.
With United on course for a third straight Premier League title and two games away from a second successive Champion League final appearance, Giggs is on the verge of collecting more silverware for an already heaving personal trophy cabinet.
He has won an unprecedented 10 league titles, two European Cups, four FA Cup wins, two League Cups and a Fifa World Club Cup.
Yet the longevity of Giggs is an achievement in itself considering he is a winger who has spent his record-breaking days dazzling defenders 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
Date of Birth: 29 November, 1973
Place of Birth: Cardiff
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 with United, matched only in history by Liverpool’s dominance of the late 1970s and early 80s.
“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 is the prototype that every youngster should want to copy
“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.”
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.”
Giggs’ 64-cap international 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.”
If Giggs was never able to lead Wales to a major tournament, the boy raised in Cardiff has the consolation of a club career that seems to get better and better.
my favourite player.. Ryan Giggs. best of all.. article from BBC Sport.