2013/14 English Premier League
Ryan Giggs is a living legend of both Manchester United and British football and the Welsh wizard looks certain to see out his career at Old Trafford, having made, as of the end of the 2009-10 season, 838 appearances since his debut as a 17-year-old against Everton in March 1991.
Snatched from under the eyes of Manchester City as a youngster, Giggs made his first league start in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford in 1990-91, scoring the only goal of the match; the following season he became first-choice left-winger at Old Trafford, winning every domestic trophy as the club swept all before them during the 1990s.
One of the most talented players of his generation, Giggs' main asset was for years his ability to use his skills at a top speed quicker than just about any defender in the game, though he has now transformed himself into an intelligent central midfielder boasting plenty of craft and guile. He has also weighed in with his fair share of important goals, including a wonder solo strike in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, which helped keep United on course for an unprecedented treble triumph.
Despite suffering from recurrent hamstring injuries throughout the late 90s and early 2000s Giggs has managed to play at least 20 league games in every season since the Premier League's inception and has been selected in the Premier League Team of the Year on no fewer than nine occasions. He flourished as an auxiliary forward supporting Ruud van Nistelrooy in the early noughties but the 2002-03 season saw Giggs suffer a loss of form and endure a barracking from the United fans. Talk of a move to Inter Milan, who tracked him for some time, continued throughout the campaign; but his performances improved as United won the title.
The winger enjoyed a better season in 2003-04, picking up another FA Cup winners' medal and weighing in with eight goals. After sorting out contract troubles he continued to play a key part in United's success. The pace waned but his skills remained as he gave up international football for Wales in June 2007, citing the fact that he wanted to continue at the top for his club as long as possible. Another Premier League-Champions League double in 2007-08 was coupled with a new appearance record as Giggs surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton's 758-game haul against Chelsea in Moscow. He then set the seal on his reputation by claiming the 2009 PFA Player of the Year trophy the following season, despite making only 12 starts.United won the Premier League again that season before Giggs claimed a remarkable 12th title in 2011.
Strengths: Tireless running and important goals have been the hallmark of a terrific career, but his intelligent retention of the ball and ability to create goalscoring opportunities for those around him cannot be underestimated.
Weaknesses: A string of hamstring injuries threatened to blight his career but he overcame that to make more than 800 appearances for the club. Has had a tendency in recent years to try too many fancy flicks, many of which don't come off.
Career high: Giggs' extra-time solo effort against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final is without doubt the defining moment of his career, but finally being recognised with an individual award - the 2009 PFA Player of the Year gong - was an equally special achievement for the Welshman.
Career low: Having won 64 caps for his country before retiring from international football in 2007, Giggs is recognised as one of the best players never to have played at a World Cup. He also missed out on ever playing at the European Championship, with his best chance coming when Russia beat Wales in the play-offs ahead of Euro 2004.
Style: Skilful, intelligent, hard-working, disciplined, dependable; a star player who has worked hard to adapt his game over the years.
Quotes: ""It takes a special person and a player to be at a club for so many years, particularly one as big as Manchester United. I'm just so honoured to have played with Ryan for the years I did and to say I know him well as a person and a player," David Beckham reveals his admiration for his esteemed formerteam-mate.
Trivia: The Welshman has only scored one hat-trick for Manchester United, notching three goals in a pre-season friendly against Hangzhou Greentown in 2009 after coming on as a second-half substitute.
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