Ryan Giggs spent the first 10 years of his Manchester United career trying to avoid Sir Alex Ferguson, because he was so terrified of the legendary Scottish manager. Firebrand Ferguson has developed a reputation for the infamous hairdryer treatment, in which he screams in the face of his victims from just inches away.
Ferguson famously tracks his players’ activity all over town, once turning up on Giggs’ doorstep during a late-night illicit party. But the Scot has mellowed over the years, says Giggs, and now even asks the Welshman’s opinion as the senior player in the United dressing room.
“Over the years he’s mellowed,” said Giggs told The Mirror.
“Maybe the dynamics of the game has changed but it comes from experience, the success he’s had and the enjoyment he gets out of it.
“But don’t think the desire and the hunger isn’t there. It’s still there as it was when I first met him. He still wants to win, he still hates losing and likes to play football in the right way.
“My relationship has changed with him. When I first met him I was 13 and for the next 10 years you try and keep out of the way.
“He asks your advice more now than when you were a younger player. You have that experience, you’re in the changing-room day-in, day-out. So it’s a natural progression from manager to coach to experienced player in the dressing room.”
When Jose Mourinho takes charge of Manchester United in summer 2012 he will have on his coaching staff three recently retired club legends. That’s the scenario posed by the week’s events, with the Portuguese signing on at Real Madrid, while Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville were each offered coaching roles at Old Trafford.
With more than 2,000 club appearances between them, the trio has amassed a wealth of experience at the club that is only surpassed by the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, himself.
Indeed, with the each now taking UEFA B and A coaching qualifications as the twilight of three magnificent careers approaches, the Scot believes that Scholes, Giggs and Neville will extend their stay at Old Trafford beyond two decades.
“They are living proof for young players that the United system allows players to succeed,” Ferguson told French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
“When they stop playing they will stay. All three are taking their coaching diplomas. I don’t think the club will pass up that much experience.”
Should the amigos remain at Old Trafford beyond their playing careers it is likely each will outlast their manager, who at 68 many pundits feel is unlikely to continue beyond a further two seasons. They will also offer an important element of continuity during what is likely to be a tumultuous period at the club post Ferguson’s retirement.
The risk of turmoil following Ferguson’s walk into the sunset is already noted, with United”s chief executive David Gill promising bond investors that the club will – no pun intended – “manage” the process. Still, there is little secret in the ceo’s preference for the Portuguese coach to take over at Old Trafford in Ferguson’s wake.
Indeed, while Gill this week claimed he will consult Ferguson on the Scot’s successor there will be few dissenting noises emanating from the manager’s Carrington office if his good friend Mourinho is offered the Old Trafford hot-seat.
“Alex is on a rolling contract. He is doing well, he is happy and he has a good staff who he works very closely with. When he decides he wants to retire he will have a word with me and say ‘The end of this season or next season’,” said Gill this week.
“We would work with him in terms of identifying a replacement. In terms of criteria we will sit down and say ‘What attributes must a manager have? Lots of things come into that. British or European? What experience they have, languages all that sort of thing as well as their track record.
“The final decision will be discussed with Alex, Bobby Charlton and the owners. I think Alex will be the key. He knows people. He will have a big role in advising and being a sounding board.”
Perhaps no surprise then that Mourinho – officially unveiled as Real Madrid manager today after the club concluded negotiations with European champions Inter Milan for the Portuguese’s services – has inserted a summer 2012 get-out clause into his new multi-million Euro contract. After all, Mourinho’s desire for a return to England is no secret.
Whomever takes over at United – even a manager with Mourinho’s force of personality – will face not only the challenge of leading a huge organisation but Ferguson’s imposing shadow, which pervades every element of the club. Ferguson’s influence, although somewhat diluted through greater delegation, famously extended to every granular detail of the club.
Mourinho is different of course, rarely taking an interest in club matters beyond the first team squad, with little reputation for developing youth or indeed staying at any club for more than a few seasons.
Important then that the club retains a link with the past, with Mourinho’s winning track-record likely to prove attractive to Gill and his paymasters in Tampa.
If – some say when – the former Porto, Chelsea and Inter coach succeeds Ferguson in Manchester then it is United’s triumvirate of playing legends that will offer that crucial role.
When football is oft described as art those commentators probably didn’t mean this. Premier League World, the magazine TV show, has organised a one-off book, to be auctioned for charity, of drawings by footballers themselves. Unbelievably these drawings aren’t from when the players were in nursery!
With more than 2000 matches for Manchester United there is a safe place in the pantheon of club greats for Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville. Now in the twilight of glorious careers, the time has come for Sir Alex Ferguson to trust in new blood with defeats to Bayern Munich and Chelsea demonstrating the inconsistencies of age.
United has offered each of the triumvirate a new deal, with Giggs already signed up, Neville certain to put pen to paper and Scholes still holding an internal debate. Each deserves the new contract; not out of sentiment but because of the very real contribution they can make to United’s campaign next season.
Indeed, Giggs’ sparkling performances in the early part of the season simply continued the Welshman’s Player of the Season form during the 2008/9 campaign. The winger’s broken arm, sustained against Aston Villa in February, came at an inconvenient time for both player and club.
Meanwhile, Neville’s return to form for United at 35 years of age is a minor miracle. Never blessed with awe-inspiring talent, Neville’s determination has enabled 15 years at the very top. Yet two years of ankle and calf injuries threaten to curtail the Bury-born player’s time at the club.
Not so, and Neville has earned praise for not only for making a comeback of any kind but forcing his way into the team when many thought the task impossible.
Then there is Scholes whose ability to pass the ball at 16 years of age brought the flame-haired midfielder to England manager Glenn Hoddle’s attention before he had made his United début. Nearly two decades on and Scholes has successfully passed more balls in the Premier League this season than any other player. He isn’t even picked every week.
But while each has produced compelling performances at times this season the ravages of age has dulled the trio’s consistency. While Giggs’ stand-out performances are now rarely on the wing, Neville is increasingly vulnerable to opponent’s physicality and Scholes blows either hot or cold with little in between.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to push Giggs wide and Ji-Sung Park inside against Chelsea on Saturday produced a tepid performance from the Welshman with Paulo Ferreira – no first choice at Chelsea – consistently quicker to the ball.
Similarly Neville was unable to doing anything about Florent Malouda’s surging run for the Londoners’ opening goal at Old Trafford. While Darren Flecher chased, Neville’s static response was telling. The full-back’s determination remains undimmed but he is no longer an athlete able to compete at the highest level.
Scholes meanwhile, still the finest passer of the ball on the planet save for Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez and Andrea Iniesta, no longer has the legs to keep up with dynamic opponents. Restricted to an increasingly small area of the pitch, Scholes is still wonderful given time and space.
Yet against the best opposition Ferguson normally deploys the ginger midfielder in a defensive role exposing his weaknesses and limiting the player to that of a quarter-back hitting long diagonal passes.
Exposed against Chelsea on Saturday, Scholes and Neville also performed poorly in United’s defeat to Bayern Munich last week. None of the trio is likely to start against Munich on Wednesday night.
Ferguson though isn’t continuing to squeeze the last drop of blood from this stone out of sentimentality: United needs the trio. Nani’s inconsistency, Anderson’s failure to mature and Rafael’s injury troubles means that the 84 games played between the three is far more than expected at the start of the campaign.
But fair warning has been given not only of the trio’s decline but the inability of United’s younger talent to reach the required standard fast enough.
If United cannot rely on more than 15 games per man next year surely it is time for Ferguson to make a leap of faith when it comes to Nani and Rafael or move on to other players. Time waits for nobody in elite sport.
The same can also be said of Anderson when the Brazilian returns from long-term knee trouble next Christmas. United needs an attacking midfielder. If the youngster isn’t up to it by now, a dip into the transfer market beckons.
That is the crux. With United’s bank account barren the manager can spend only more debt to revitalise the squad.
Time will tell if this inquest is held once again in a year’s time.
Sir Alex Ferguson says Ryan Giggs could yet make Manchester United’s Champions League tie with AC Milan on 10 March. United head into the Old Trafford tie 3-2 ahead on aggregate after the first leg in Milan but will miss injury victims Rio Ferdinand, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves, together with suspended midfielder Michael Carrick
“Ryan still has the injury to his arm,” said Ferguson of 36-year-old Giggs.
“But we are taking the plate out at the end of the week and he will be in full training after that, which is good news.”
Giggs fractured his right arm in a challenge with Aston Villa’s Steve Sidwell earlier this month. The Welshman will need clearance to play in a lightweight cast and could yet be pressed into a central midfield berth with just Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Darron Gibson available to Ferguson for the Milan tie.
Ryan Giggs, Manchester United’s one-man trophy cabinet, was awarded the Freedom of Salford in a ceremony held today. The Welshman, 36, recently picked up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award and is the current PFA Players Player of the Year. In a glittering career Giggs has won 23 major trophies.
“I moved to the area originally because my dad was a rugby player and I played rugby from being 10 or 11,” said Giggs, who has played for his hometown club his entire career.
“I represented Salford Boys and played for Langworthy. I did play rugby as well but I have to admit I was quite close to choosing rugby. I was certainly undecided. But at 13 I met the manager – and that was the end of that.”
Giggs, originally on the books on Manchester City before joining United, puts his success down to deep roots in the area. And in more than 20 years at the club, Giggs has seen Salford change immensely.
“I have not had the same problems that players from other countries or parts of the UK have,” he said.
“I have friends I can trust. My family is here and I know the area. That has been a help in my career.
“We have the Lowry Theatre, the Imperial War Museum, Media City is being built, and of course United, which is the first place I would tell people to visit.
“I played for Salford Boys at both rugby and football. The United training ground was at Broughton, my kids were born in Hope Hospital. Everything big that has happened in my life has happened in Salford.”
Ryan Giggs has signed a new one-year deal at Manchester United that commits him to the club until June 2011, beyond his 20th anniversary in the first team. The Welshman, voted 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award last week, has won more medals than any other player in British football history.
“Ryan deserves a new contract and I am sure that he will play for another two years,” said manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“His form is fantastic at the moment and he is playing some of his best football.”
Giggs, who has won 11 Premier League titles, two European Cups, four FA Cups and countless personal awards in a glittering career, is excited about the new deal.
“I am delighted that I have agreed one more year,” said the winger.
“I am enjoying my football more than ever and I am looking forward to hopefully winning more trophies with United.”
Ryan Giggs claimed the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2009 award in Sheffield last night. The award, voted for by the public since 1954, is the first time a Manchester United player has taken the prize since David Beckham in 2001. Giggs expressed his shock at taking the prize, beating F1 Champions Jenson Button into second place.
The BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year is something of anachronism, rewarding these days performance and profile and not ‘personality’. It matters little though. For the first time since 2001 a Manchester United player is not only in with a genuine shot of winning the gong but stands head and shoulders above his peers.
Vote Ryan Giggs – Sports Personality to end all sports personalities.
Giggs’ performances on the pitch defy his advancing age. Now in his 37th year, with 830 United appearances behind him, the Welshman remains as important to the club’s cause as ever. Although deployed less often than in his rampaging youth, Giggs still appeared 41 times for United last season. Such were his outstanding performances that Giggs picked up the PFA Players’ Player of the Season.
If anything Giggs has been even better for United this campaign.
But while the BBC award is very much about the here and now, Giggs’ record compares favorably to the very best sportsmen of all time. Not only has the Welshman won more Premier League titles than any other player with 11 but has two European Cups, four FA Cups, seven Community shields, three League Cups and two Intercontinental/FIFA Club World Cups.
Throw the European Super Cup, eight PFA Team of the Year appearances and one of the most fabulous goals ever scored in 1999 FA Cup Semi final and you have some measure of the man.
There were the fallow years of course as Giggs entered his thirties and Sir Alex Ferguson’s team fell behind first Arsenal and then Chelsea in the Premier League. While injuries had always been a part of Giggs’ early career, it was perhaps transition from flying winger to midfield creator that stymied the Welshman’s career the most.
One of the qualities that marks Giggs out as a great, however, is the winger’s professionalism, which serves as an inspiration not only to millions of supporters but his teammates too. Sycophantic that may be but in an era of millionaire teenage players and billionaire oligarch owners, Giggs has eschewed the excesses of sex, drink and celebrity so often favoured by his peers. It’s a fact recognised by his manager above all.
“I will always remember the presentation the players made to him after the Champions League final in Moscow last year,” said Sir Alex Ferguson this week as Giggs picked up the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year Award.
“Afterwards they started to sing the Ryan Giggs song. It was absolutely genuine. You could see the warmth he generates. He is an example and leader in the dressing room and an advisor to young players. It is always refreshing they go to him rather than rely on an agent.
“His best years have been the latter ones. Since we have combated the injury problem with his back, his performances have been quite staggering.
“In the last minute of Saturday’s game at West Ham he went on an overlapping run from the left-back position. It was fully sixty yards – and he is thirty six. I couldn’t do that on a bike!”
It is a shame then that the only major blot on Giggs’ record is the lack of a major international tournament with Wales. With 64 appearances Giggs is among the most capped Welshmen of all time but like George Best before him Giggs has never been to the World Cup. As the season approaches its end there will, no doubt, a tinge of regret.
But the man whom Ferguson describes as a “God in the dressing room” has offered two decades of entertainment to United’s supporters instead. For that the BBC should end this year’s voting now and simply hand the Cardiff-born player the trophy.
“I thank my lucky stars that I have been able to experience and enjoy watching his performances for 20 years,” said Ferguson.
“No manager will have that again.”