Opinion

Opinion

Gambler Fergie Hits Jackpot

May 16, 2009 Tags: , , Opinion 1 comment

Manchester United won a record-equalling 18th English championship – their 11th in the Premier League – after a scoreless draw against Arsenal at Old Trafford this afternoon. The draw takes United an insurmountable seven points clear of Liverpool. And despite the bleating emanating from United’s rivals down the M62, the Reds thoroughly deserve the title after a producing the most consistent attacking football throughout the season.

United’s victory is in no small part down to Sir Alex Ferguson, whose propensity to gamble by throwing on forwards has helped United pick up crucial points when it looked like none were coming. Forget any talk about injuries to Gerrard and Torres, in the final analysis Sir Alex’ bravery in consistently throwing on four forwards when the chips were down was the real difference this season. With United’s 18th title, not only has Fergie knocked Liverpool “off their fucking perch” but he has trampled all over their dying corpse. Ronnie Moran, Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Gérard Houllier, Rafael Benítez… you all came and tried but your boys have taken one helluva beating over the past 19 seasons.

The season didn’t start out that way of course. With Cristiano Ronaldo recuperating from an ankle operation and Dimitar Berbatov settling into the side, United started slowly. The team lost to Zenit St. Petersburg, Liverpool and Arsenal, alongside draws with Newcastle, Celtic and Aalborg among others, all before Christmas.

The Red’s victorious trip to the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan late December seemed to galvanise the side though, not least the defence, which went 14 Premier League games without conceding a goal as Rafa Benitez went into meltdown. The Liverpool manager started moaning about his now infamous “facts” on January 8th and seemingly hasn’t stopped since. But the only affect Benitez achieved was to throw his team into the bear pit and magnify the pressure. It backfired in the most spectacular way and has helped to leave Liverpool without a trophy once again.

Ferguson has seen it all before of course. When the pressure was applied it was United, not Liverpool, nor Chelsea, and never Arsenal that came up with the answers time and again. Late and often unlikely winners against Bolton, Stoke City, Aston Villa and Sunderland, to name but a few, have bought enough points for the title and some to spare. More often than not the gaffer was prepared to put Carlos Tevez, Waybe Rooney, with the aforementioned Ronaldo and Berbatov on the pitch all at the same time. United’s comeback from two goals down to win 5-2 against Spurs at home seemed to sum up a season. Throw two vital goals from 17 year old Federico Macheda the mix and every roll of the die came up double sixes. In the same situation Benitez would have thrown on one of his squad’s 12 left backs.

Let’s hope Fergie has the right numbers once again a week Wednesday in Rome.

Should he stay or should he go?

May 14, 2009 Tags: , Opinion No comments

Amid claims and counter claims about the future of Carlos Tevez one thing has become abundantly clear is week – while United would like to keep the little Argentinian, the board have no intention of paying the full £22 million transfer fee (plus loan fees already paid) being demanded by MSI, the holder of the player’s ‘economic rights’. It’s a fact that will most likely see the popular forward leave the club this summer.

The fee, which is believed to have been agreed at €34 million Euros two years ago when Tevez first signed on loan for the club, has become a problem for three principal reasons. Firstly, changes in the exchange rate mean that the figure has increased by more than 25% when converted to pounds over the past year. Secondly, the United simply don’t value Tevez at the same level as MSI – which would essentially make Tevez the club’s record signing. Thirdly, with £81 million to pay in debt interest this summer, the club – even if they did value Tevez that highly – just don’t want to pay it.

The player becomes even more expensive when wages and other fees are taken into account. Add to the bill the £6-£10 million already paid in loan fees, together with wages and the total cost to United of keeping the striker begins to look very steep. Indeed, Tevez earns in excess of £5 million per year, meaning the cost to United of keeping and paying the player for the past two seasons, and the next three of the proposed contract, is more than £55 million.

Reports in The Guardian today suggest that United are attempting to renegotiate a fee for Tevez, although no final figure is placed on the proposed deal. However, with a string of clubs apparently prepared to bid for the striker, United would appear to be in a weak bargaining position. This position would appear to become even less strong with the player himself apparently unhappy at Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad rotation policy.

It’s a game of brinkmanship of course. The MSI team (or whomever actually owns Tevez’ rights, a leaked letter circulating this week suggests that this isn’t clear) want to maximise their return. Selling to United at a reduced fee when there are other options on the table would appear to be contradictory to that aim. Meanwhile, Tevez himself may be frustrated at his squad status, although the joy on his face as he backheeled home United’s equaliser last night suggests otherwise. Suggesting that he is unhappy may also be a convenient way of pressurising United. United meanwhile have leaked to the press the possibility of ripping up Tevez’ agreement with MSI, and signing the player on a free transfer.

The fans would love the player to stay of course. Not only does Tevez work his socks of for the team when given the opportunity but he has scored some vital late goals for the team this season. He is, rightly, one of the most popular players at the club.

But taken in the round, is Tevez really worth both the political hassle and huge financial cost to the club? Good player as he is, Tevez’ scoring record (34 goals in 97 appearances and 20% of them in the League Cup) and contribution to the team fall short of the very highest level. For the sake of consistency, and squad balance, there is no doubt that Tevez will continue to make a valuable contribution if he signs permanently for the club. But will it be a £55 million contribution? Personally, I have my doubts.

United demonstrates just how far City has to go

May 12, 2009 Tags: Opinion 1 comment

To abuse an old cliché, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be Manchester City. And while Sunday’s derby match served to highlight the gulf between two teams on the pitch, it also served to remind us of the vast difference between the status of the two clubs off it.

City’s mega-rich Abu Dhabi owners are eager for success of course. More still, they’re keen to be seen as punching their weight at the top table of European club football. Their Bitter Blue fans, meanwhile, just want some glory, and they want it now. Starvation for 30 years can make a fan hungry.

But Sunday’s easy win for the Red half of the city not only helped to demonstrate that success for the Blues may well take some time, but that they will have to gain it the hard way. In fact so far are City behind, that Sir Alex Ferguson felt confident enough to leave key plays such as Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney out of the side altogether.

In many ways the match on Sunday helped to contrast the gulf between United’s years of success and City’s nouveau riche. City, of course, beat United twice last season without oil-millions spent on Brazillian superstars. But while those victories were gained amid a backdrop of giant killing, City now have pretensions of being one of the big boys of the European Elite. In this context, City rolled over rather meekly.

Ferguson, of course, has evolved this iteration of the United team over many seasons. He endured criticism during years of transition but held fast in his belief that trophies would be the inevitable result of this process. Ferguson’s patience is in marked contrast to the aspirations of City’s new maga-wealthy owners, who are essentially trying to build a top-four side from scratch. Indeed, while the last fantasy-Premier League side, Chelsea’s strategy was to add £200 million worth of players to a side already on the cusp of the top four, City are building from a low base. It will be a tough ride, no matter how much their wealth.

City’s is a huge project that may cost upwards of £500 million over the next three years in transfer fees and vastly inflated wages. This comes without any guarantee of success. Thus, patience is the name of the game for City’s owners and fans alike. If Sunday’s match is anything to go by, they will need it. The question is, with pressure being piled on former United hero Mark Hughes to win silverware, will he be afforded it?

Fergie has key decisions to make on forwards

May 10, 2009 Tags: , , Opinion 2 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson said this week that he has no summer transfer targets on the table and that there will be no major additions to the squad. Minor tinkering with the squad is an understandable policy for the Premiership, European and World Champions, who will likely retain their English crown in the coming week after beating their city rivals today. After all, by his own admision, Ferguson has at his command the strongest squad in his 23 years in charge at the club. Forget Ribery, Kaká, Benzema et al. The club’s strategy is to not fix what ain’t broke.

But one area of the squad that Ferguson may need to make some of the toughest decisions is in the forwards, with question marks hanging over the futures of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular. Meanwhile, Berbatov is not without his critics, and the gaffer must choose which of the youngsters Federico Macheda, Manucho, Frasier Campbell and Danny Welbeck to keep, sell or loan out.

The future of the little Argentinean is perhaps the most worrying.  “I do not feel wanted. I feel bad over my situation…I guess what I’m saying is goodbye,” reports today quote Tevez  as saying. And it’s not the first time that the frustrated striker has expressed his belief that he’ll be leaving the club this summer. Ferguson’s refusal to discuss the matter today was telling. Could the club have already decided that spending €34 million on Tevez, despite all his energetic endeavour, is just not worth it?

One player unlikely to move on is Ronaldo, despite sulking after being substituted against City. His future in the white shirt of Real Madrid seems further away than ever, with United, it’s manager and now the player categorically saying that the Portuguese forward will be at Old Trafford next season. Madrid is more chaotic than ever – a fact that must weigh heavily in Ronaldo’s mind. A new President will be elected this summer after the old was kicked out for corruptly winning the previous election. Moreover, interim (although reasonably successful) manager Juande Ramos will almost certainly be removed from his post in favour of a new man once the President is elected. A summer 2010 transfer would seem to be more realistic at this stage.

Meanwhile, which of his four young forwards he keeps on the books will be central to Ferguson’s thinking this summer. The emergence of Macheda and Wellbeck has given the Scot a plethora of choices in the front line. But the balance between maintaining a strong squad – Macheda has already scored two key goals this season – and ensuring that young players get enough games is also key. Sir Alex is likely to loan out at least one of his bright young things.

Ferguson must also decide what to do with on-loan strikers Campbell and Manucho, who are at Tottenham Hotspur and Hull respectively. Neither has overly impressed either – with Campbell getting far fewer games than might have been expected since the return of Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe to the London club. Angolan forward Manucho has merely used his time at Hull to confirm what many expected already – he’s probably not quite good enough for the Premier league. A season in the reserves beckons.

Dimitar Berbatov – who has been sublime and frustrating in almost equal measure this season – and Wayne Rooney are certain to stay of course. My feeling is that they will probably be complimented by Ronaldo for one last campaign and the up-and-coming Macheda. Money is being reigned in at the club and they will not spend another €24 million (in addition to the €10 million already paid) for Tevez, whom Ferguson has come to regard as not central to his plans.

However, should the board spring a suprise and release funds for a major purchase then Karim Benzema is only an outside possibility. The Frenchman’s signing assumes that Tevez leaves and that the Lyon forward is not picked up by one of the Spanish giants. While Benzema may be a target for both Real and Barcelona, it is move is dependent on both the outcome of Madrid Presidential election and the future of Samuel Eto’o at Los Cules. It’s a complex carousel.

Whatever his choices, with Liverpool and Chelsea certain to spend big in the summer, Ferguson must pick the right four or five forwards to fire United to yet more glory next season!

Richest Club in the World® circus arrives at Old Trafford

May 8, 2009 Tags: Opinion No comments

United welcome Abu Dhabi’s Manchester City to Old Trafford this Sunday for the 151st Manchester derby. It’s a tie that always has an edge of course but this time out it’s also a crucial match in United’s hunt for a third Premier League crown in a row. With only four games left, and United needing just seven points for the title, the Reds will be looking to secure a vital win. City, who are still chasing a potential place in next seasons revamped Europa League, come to Old Trafford in decent form, with four wins in their last six. But with the opposition far from clever on the road this year, a season’s double over City should entail after United’s 1-0 Victory at Eastlands in November.

Indeed, it’s been an up and down season for City since the takeover by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour. The Blue Noses, who in addition to being The Richest Club in the World®, have the Planet’s Tallest Floodlights® and The Widest Pitch in the Known Universe® at The Council House®, have largely fallen below expectations this campaign. This despite spending north of £80 million on a couple of fitful Brazilians, a no-mark Dutch midfielder and a Chelsea reserve. But in the final weeks of the season, they have finally begun to pick up enough points to save Mark Hughes’ job. For now.

Not that Hughes has been all that popular with City fans, who have always had delusions of grandeur. Now, fuelled by millions of petro-dollars, Blue Noses expect instant success. They’re a big club, you know. Massive in fact. Inevitably, even with a place in the Champions League always a remote possibility, some Bitters have been calling for Hughes’ head. They’ve waited 33 years since their last trophy, you’d think another season would make no difference.

City fans, of course, have taken their new owners to heart. Just as they’ve shown blind faith in the string of fools who’ve run the club over the past three decades. It’s a nice welcoming club like that. But then again, they were big fans of the human-rights defying Thai fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra last year so perhaps City supporters aren’t the best judges of character.

Abu Dhabi’s takeover might be different though, as the Emirates principality seem keen to throw money at their new toy. It has to be a long-term project though. Multi-million oil dollars spent this summer are unlikely to attract anything more than mercenaries or leading clubs’ ageing cast offs until City acheive some tangible success. As Kaká proved, money is one thing, but for the very top players trophies are something else altogether. Still, for owners willing to spend £17million on somebody as average as Nigel de Jong then eventually they might just buy their way to some silverware.

Until then, let’s welcome City to Old Trafford, the European Capital of Trophies.

Chelsea reap what they sow in Euro farce

May 7, 2009 Tags: , , Opinion No comments

Is it just me or was the Chelsea – Barcelona game absolutely hilarious? If you believe in footballing karma, then surely Wednesday night was richly deserved. For a team featuring some of football’s most overrated (Terry), fraudulent (Drogba) and generally loathsome (Ashley Cole) players, Wednesday was payback for years of intimidating referees and bending the rules of the game.

Not that Chelsea saw it quite so philosophically. The ever-dignified Drogba – crying like a baby, swearing at cameras and punching walls – led the post-match histrionics, and was admirably backed-up the equally unpleasant Ballack. Such was the frenzy whipped up by such ambassadors for the club that the ref had to move hotels that night to escape a baying mob.

Hiddink, meanwhile, was quick to imply that the referee was under UEFA instructions to avoid an another all-English Champions League by giving Barcelona a helping hand. Clearly he knows a thing or two about such conspiracies giving his time as coach of South Korea when – as host nation at the 2002 World Cup – they made the semi-finals thanks to some equally suspect refereeing.

The truth, as any sane neutral could clearly see, was that the referee clearly had a shocker, which happens sometimes. It’s a fact in football that mistakes are made, but its how you react to them that counts. Compare, for example, Chelsea last night with Darren Fletcher’s sending off on Tuesday. Both suffered injustice. Fletcher – unfairly ruled out of probably the biggest game he would ever play in – leaves the pitch without a word, while Drogba and co go nuts. It tells you everything you need to know about the character of a football club.

Anyway, bring on Barça. And I really think United must start as favourites in light of how rattled the Catalans were by a strong but unspectacular Chelsea side. Let just hope that Norwegian fella isn’t in charge.

20,000 new seats but will they be any cheaper?

May 7, 2009 Tags: , Opinion No comments

Old Trafford is set to expand once again to over 95,000 seats from the current capacity of 76,212, according to recent media reports. While these rumours are not new, nor a timescale given to the project, or planning permission granted by Trafford Borough Council, they are given some credence by a recent interview by M.E.N with United’s group property manager George Johnstone.

While the news is hardly unexpected – the club have been looking at options for expanding the single tier South Stand for some time now – it is welcome for the thousands of fans who are locked out of many of United’s home matches. But the development poses some real questions:  is the move designed solely to increase turnover at debt-ridden United, or will any of the new seats be offered at affordable prices?

Since Old Trafford was converted to an all-seater stadium in 1992, at a capacity of just 44,000, there has been continual expansion in size and facilities. Firstly, the club added more than 11,000 new seats by building the giant three-tiered North Stand in 1995. Further seating was then added with second-tiers built on the East and West Stands. The North East and North West Quadrant second-tiers were completed in 2006 to restore something of a bowl to the stadium for the first time since 1992.

The new project will is likely comprise of two phases and has two potential outcomes. Firstly, completing the second-tiers of the South East and South West Quadrants, for an additional 8,000 seats. This has always been a matter of time and money as the expansion would use very little extra land.

Secondly, building a three-tier replication of the North Stand on the South side of the stadium that will add an additional 11,000 seats for a new Old Trafford capacity of 95,212. However, the South Stand expansion is a much more complex project because of the Manchester to Liverpool railway line and Manchester United FC Halt station that lies behind the stand. Any project will be affected by the presence of the track, with either a two or three tier new stand certain to overhang or possibly be built over the railway. This will necessitate the club buying up to 50 houses on Railway Road and create a far more difficult planning process.

A less expensive two tier addition to the South Stand is also believed to be under consideration by the board and would not be built over the railway tracks. This would create a final Old Trafford capacity of about 91,212, similar to Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu but well short of Barcelona’s soon-to-be expanded Camp Nou at 106,000.

When United last conducted a feasability study on the project the costs came out at more than £100 million and are unlikely to have fallen in the meantime. With club debt at more than £700 million and rising there must be serious doubts about how the club could fund the project without rolling the costs into the club’s ongoing bank and PIK debt.

The debt also quashes the mooted possibily of a reduction in ticket prices. After all more seats equals more revenue, and financing a stadium expansion together with debt repayment will require a lot of extra revnue. One of the reasons why United were one of the only top clubs in the country to raise ticket prices for next season, in the depths of the worst recesion since the 1930s.

Harsh on Fletch but its the law not ref that is wrong

May 6, 2009 Tags: , , Opinion 1 comment

We’ve been hit with a nasty strain of Flu here at Rant Towers this week but despite spluttering our way through last night’s superb 3-1 Champions League semi-final win at the Emirates, we’re definitely not feeling as sick as Darren Fletcher this morning. His red card means that he will miss the Rome final in three weeks time, which he may have started.

The sending off and subsequent ban is incredibly harsh on The Scottish Player given his performance on the night but the referee probably got it right. Fletcher can rightly point to the fact that in challenging Cesc Fabregas he got a touch on the ball as the Spaniard bore down on goal. But referees’ normal interpretation of the law these days is to look at a challenge in the round. The ball may be taken but if the follow-through takes the man (and Fletcher clearly did just that), then a foul will be given anyway. In this respect referee Roberto Rosetti made the correct decision by the letter of the law to award a penalty and send Fletcher off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

The aim of this modification in the rules was to outlaw dangerous tackles that can potentially injure players, even if the ball is taken. Indeed, United benefitted from this interpretation when awarded a penalty against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month – Heurelho Gomes got a touch on the ball but clattered Michael Carrick anyway and a penalty was awarded, to much dismay in the press.

The main problem is the lack of leeway in refereeing flexibility. The powers that be should give referee’s more room to interpret the law depending on the circumstances.  

Clearly, Fletcher’s tackle was a brilliant piece of defensive work, not a potentially dangerous challenge. It also summed up why the Scot has become such a big game player for United in recent seasons. The midfielder could have let Fabregas take the goal without challenging – after all United were home and dry. But the Scot’s ultra professional performance in last night’s match – and over the season – meant that he was always going to put in a tackle. It is a credit to how much Fletcher’s game has developed over the past couple of years. He’ll always be a water-carrier, but is better at doing the dirty work than he used to be.

There is absolutely no chance that UEFA will overturn Rosetti’s decision – there isn’t even an appeals process except in cases of mistaken identity. And the irony is that Fletcher’s suspension may leave room in the team for Paul Scholes, who was famously banned from the 1999 Champions League final. Fittingly, it was  The Ginger Prince who was first in the dressing room last night to console the Scot.

United risk losing focus as Golden Generation prepares to bow out

April 29, 2009 Tags: , Opinion 2 comments

Paul Aaron Scholes, born 16 November 1974, is precisely one month younger than me. When the ginger maestro burst onto the scene in the mid-90s I quietly reveled in this fact; here was a guy at the heart of a new golden generation that was to dominate his profession for a decade. Fast forward almost 15 years – Portsmouth at Old Trafford last week – and Scholes stepped out for his 600th game in a United shirt, surely the last milestone before the curtain falls on a glittering career. Now the proximity of our birthdates is not such a good omen; It’s not nice to be reminded that you’re over the hill.

That Scholes deserves all the plaudits heaped on him is not in question. As is often noted, his quiet professionalism is in stark contrast to the celebrity-obsessed idiocy that afflicts most modern premiership players. But the passing of Schole’s golden generation is in danger of overshadowing a deeper problem at OT. When Scholes and co exit stage left, what’s the next act?

The opening game of United’s 1995/96 season – a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa – is chiefly remembered for Alan Hanson’s smug post match assertion that “you cannae win anything with kids.” United’s team that day included Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, players that were to lead United to unparalleled success later that decade.

This generation reached its pinnacle in the 1999 treble winning season. The team at this point featured arguably English football’s best ever midfield quartet: Giggs, Scholes, Keane, Beckham. This midfield was famously disrupted by the arrival of Veron (who managed one decent game for United in three years) and the exit of Beckham (who had become more interested in haircuts by this point). What followed was a series of rubbish signings (Djemba Djemba, Kleberson etc.) and good ones (Rooney, Ronaldo) but a new homegrown generation never materialised. This was never more evident than in the signings of Anderson and Nani, bought as long-term replacements for Scholes and Giggs, respectively.

It’s no surprise that the young, dynamic team that emerged in the mid-90s is held in such high regard at the club given the legacy of the Busby Babes, but both sides are the exception to United’s history, not the rule. Virtually the whole of the 70s and 80s was spent buying established players and it’s been pretty much the same since the treble winning team was broken up. The harsh truth is that United’s constant talk of investing in youth and nurturing young talent is mostly bollocks. For every Macheda that comes along, there’s a million Chris Eagles who are shipped off to the lower leagues and never heard of again.

As he proved with his pinpoint pass to set-up Carrick’s goal against Portsmouth in his 600th game, Scholes has his place in the current team on merit rather than sentiment. But OT will be awash with sentimentality as his golden generation retires over the next year or so, and that’s no good thing for a club that has built its success on a ruthlessness that keeps it moving forward at all costs.

This sentimentality will be evident again tonight when Giggs is expected to notch up an unprecedented 800th appearance for the club. As with Scholes, the newly-crowned player of the year deserves his swansong. But there’s already some silly talk of United retiring Gigg’s number 11 shirt; a proposal seemingly dreamt up by some United suit with no knowledge of the club’s history prior to 1991 (Norman Whiteside and George Best are just two legends to have worn the shirt before him).

So, let the golden generation bow out gracefully, but let’s now concentrate on developing a new one rather than celebrating an old one. I’m sure both Scholes and Giggs would agree.

Giggs backlash begins

April 28, 2009 Tags: , Opinion No comments

Ryan Giggs was presented with this year’s Professional Footballers Association award for Player of the Year on Sunday night. But the Welshman barely had time to place the gong is his overflowing trophy cabinet before the backlash began. Quel surprise!

“He’s only started 12 Premier League games this season,” argued the Daily Mail before putting up Andy Towsend and Jamie Redknapp to argue their point. Pundit Towsend said, while answering the rhetoric question whether Giggs deserved the award,  that the “statistics say no” before going on to have an opinion on the matter himself. He thinks too, you know. Redknapp then demanded that the voting system be looked at, clearly wondering why non-Liverpool players are actually allowed to win.

Even Giggs’ former Welsh teammate John Hartson, fresh from winning nothing of note in his entire career, put the boot in by saying “personally, he wouldn’t have got my vote.” Fortunately, Hartson would still have to be a professional footballer to vote. Clue’s in the title, John. Then Liverpool’s long-forgotten England failure John ‘Errr’ Barnes ‘ Errr’ weighed in too, lending his support for Gerrard.

Meanwhile, over at the Scouse-loving BBC, online columnist ‘Pop’ Robson claimed that “any right thinking person would’ve plumped for Gerrard or Vidic.” Guess the pros who face Giggs week in, week out, just weren’t right-thinking enough for you Pop?

Not that we should let statistics tell the tale but, for the record, Giggs has played in 40 of United’s 58 games this season – exactly the same number as Gerrard. Good job Andy didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good headline!

Or perhaps Giggs – who has been a superb creative force from central midfield this season – does actually deserve the award? True, there has been no obvious candidate this year in the way Cristiano Ronaldo stormed to the award in the past two campaigns. Vidic, van der Sar, Ferdinand and even Gerrard have been excellent this season. But that’s the point, the votes were always likely to be split pretty evenly and in all probability Giggs won a close run contest.

After failing to come up with an clear – or consistent – alternative our friends in the press have now taken to patronising Giggs. Lauding the PFA prize as some kind of ‘lifetime achievement’ award made out of sympathy for a player in his swansong.

The truth is, of course, while many players will recognise Giggs’ 18 years service to the game, and his spotless professional record (no Red cards for United, no barroom brawls, no tabloid preening) – many actually voted for Giggs because of the quality of his football. No longer able to sprint up and down the left wing, number 11 Giggs has transformed his game to become a classic number 10 – picking out passes with ease and finding space where others can’t.

The Football Writers’ Award is announced in a few weeks, and after the shortlist of Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea nominees is whittled down, Steven Gerrard will take home the prize. Giggs meanwhile will walk off with his 10th Premiership crown. The mark of a genuine legend.