Ryan Giggs has cemented himself in the history books, not just for United, but English football. He currently holds the record for the most English league titles won by a player, with 9 winners medals, and it will be some time until that is beaten. Paul Scholes is the only player who stands to threaten his title, but would have to win the league a further four times after Giggs retired. The winger features in the top 15 goalscorers in the history of the Premier League, and has the 4th highest number of appearances.
However, there has been growing concern from United fans considering that Giggs is a player best left in the history books, and not in our starting line-up.
At Blackburn at the weekend Sir Alex Ferguson had the sense to bring Nani, who has been impressive in the chances he’s been given this season, on to the pitch at the restart, replacing an unimpressive Giggs. Whilst allowance can be made for his loss of pace, his 34-year-old legs straining to bomb down the wing these days, there is no excuse for Giggs’ all round general contribution. Lazy flicks to no one have replaced the precise passing, whilst his lack of ability to take players on leave him losing possession for the team time and again. With the finish line approaching, we can’t afford to have players like that on the pitch.
Giggs has today defended himself against the mounting criticism, naively claiming the complaints have arisen because he’s been at the club for a long time. Who’s right, the fans or the player?
“Getting criticism is part of being a Manchester United player. It doesn’t bother me,” Giggs said. “I don’t know why I’m singled out. Maybe it’s because I’ve been around so long. But the one person I have to impress is the manager – and while he is picking me, I know I am good enough.”
This of course isn’t the first time Giggs has felt the flack from United fans. Despite being one of the greatest players the club has ever had, his form has never been entirely consistent. This should be expected however, because which player has managed to stay on the top of their game for 17 years? For Giggs to hold down a place in the best side in England for the majority of his career speaks volumes about his ability.
Ahead of the FA Cup game against Arsenal in 1999, when Giggs scored “that” goal, he had been dropped due to poor form. In the league game preceding the Cup match, Giggs was an unused sub, despite United chasing a victory in their 1-1 draw against MK Dons (ah, those were the days eh?). Before scoring the goal that will go down as arguably the greatest ever in the FA Cup, Giggs started the game on the bench, replacing Blomqvist with an hour played. He has therefore shown that he has the strength of character to ride through the criticism and come up with the goods in the end. However, Giggs was 25-years-old then, it’s a different story now.
I’ll vent my frustrations with Giggsy in the ground, but was amongst the United fans singing his song at Ewood Park on Saturday. However annoying Giggs can be, there’s always something tugging at you, telling you not to slate him, which has helped me search for someone else to point the finger at.
Last year, Giggs played in an impressive 44 games for United, including an FA Cup final, as well as both legs of the Champions League quarter and semi-finals. By the time Wembley rolled around, Giggs was absolutely knackered. He lasted 112 minutes before being subbed off for veteran Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but could barely jog by the time he left the field.
He has since retired from International football, playing in 5 matches for Wales last season, and Sir Alex Ferguson seems to think that’s reason enough to give him more games than he can manage for United. It’s ridiculous to play a 34-year-old as frequently as Fergie has played Giggs this season, particularly considering his declining form. When we have the emerging talent of Nani to play, there is no reason to keep throwing Giggs in to the starting team. Whilst Nani still needs to learn when is the time to shoot and when is the time to pass, (which is all too remnant of our other Portuguese player in his first few seasons with the club!) he has put on several blinding performances for us and is more than worthy of a starting place in the side. Equally, Park has shown he is deserving of more starts since returning from his long term injury. He made Rooney’s goals against Roma and Middlesbrough earlier this month, which is a lot more than can be said of Giggs’ contribution of late.
So is it Ryan to blame here, or the manager? Giggs can only give his best and if his best isn’t good enough anymore, particularly on a weekly basis, then should he be slated for that? Is he supposed to instead tell Fergie he won’t play, for fear of coming under more criticism from the fans?
Recently, in a period of 14 days, Giggs played for 90 minutes on two occasions, against Derby and Aston Villa, as well as 73 minutes against Liverpool. Giggs’ replacement against the dippers, Nani, scored a cracking goal after 8 minutes on the field, but the message still hasn’t seem to have gone through to the manager.
Giggs still has a place in our team, no doubt, and as we’ve seen already this season, after being rested, the hunger seems to get to him, and his fresher legs have a lot more to offer. However, with United having the strongest squad they’ve ever had in terms of depth, I struggle to understand why Ferguson is so insistent on playing Giggs so frequently. Not even playing him so frequently, but so often for so much of the game. Giggs has played for 90 minutes on 18 occasions this season.
Some fans have harshly claimed we’d be better off playing with 10 men than with Giggs on the field, but if recent displays are anything to go by, there is some truth to that. At least our lads could pass it amongst themselves, rather than giving Giggsy the ball to lose a few moments later.
So come on Fergie, give Giggs a chance, and put him on the bench!