The word legend is thrown around far too often in regards to footballers, especially on the ever more popular social media platform, Twitter. The banter between Twitter accounts about their club’s best players often leads to the word legend being tossed about like a beach ball on a windy day; out of control and too much. But make no mistake about it: Ryan Giggs is a true footballing legend.
Having spent his entire career at one club, the Welshman earned the status of legend, amassing a whopping 37 trophies while appearing for the greatest English club of all time 963 times and scoring 168 goals. Ryan Giggs did not step into a Pep Guardiola side (already winning everything). He joined a United team that had been stuck in the doldrums for a while. Trophies had been few and far between for years now, but things were about to drastically change. Giggs became a centerpiece for the greatest manager of all time to build that exact status. Ferguson used, and sometimes abused, many players during his 26 and half years at United, but Giggs was a focal point of the most successful years Ferguson oversaw at United. Ferguson claimed that if Giggs had not gone on to play into his 40’s, he could have been the Manchester United manager. The Scotsman would never ask a player to quit, so instead of an earlier retirement and assistant manager work under Ferguson, Giggs continued to fly up and down the wing winning more trophies and enjoying his football.
But things changed, as they often do, especially when Ferguson finally retired. All of Giggs’ career had been under the watchful eye of Ferguson. Every goal. Every training session, Every trip. Every failure and every success. As Ferguson retired and moved away from United, Giggs moved a step away from the pitch and a step towards the manager’s dugout.
At the time it was hailed a brilliant move by Moyes to have Giggs as a player/coach. He knows the club and could help a manager looking to prove himself at the biggest club in the world. Giggs did play, but it was the last 4 games of the season that defined Giggs, as he was given charge over the club after Moyes was sacked. The club sought a steady manager, someone with an iron fist who’d won it all; that turned out to Louis Van Gaal. As he always does, he kept a club figure as a part of his staff and at United he decided on Ryan Giggs. Now officially retired as a player, Giggs was an assistant manager to Van Gaal. His job was scouting opposition and presenting his findings to the team, but just like when he was a player, the spotlight continued to fall on Giggs.
United struggled out of the gate with Van Gaal and continued to struggle for his two seasons in charge. Cries from United fans towards Giggs seem to have gone on deaf ears. The fans wanted Giggs to stand up and say something to the floundering Van Gaal as goals were scarce for the club who’d made a name around finding a way to score one more goal than the opposition could muster. But Giggs was silent, or so it seemed. He would pop up on the sideline towards the end of Van Gaal’s reign, pushing and prodding the men on the pitch to do more but that seemed the extent of Giggs’ protests to the football being served up at United, at least on the outside. Rumours of a plan for Giggs to become manager after Van Gaal’s three-year contract was up was always on the lips of fans as they wondered if it was true.
We would never find out as Van Gaal only made it through two of his contractual three years and the club turned, not to Giggs but, to Jose Mourinho. Would there be a place for Giggs with the hard-nosed Mourinho taking the reigns? The Portuguese manager demands absolute and complete loyalty from his staff, something he felt he could not get if Giggs was a part of his closest team of coaches. Could Giggs have done more in two failed regimes to prove he was the right man to take United back to previous glories? Possibly, but it’s always easiest to throw rocks at what we don’t understand. Many fans feel like he could have done more and in return, they placed a lot of the blame for United’s failures at the feet of the man who is a club legend.
So now Giggs moves away from United for the first time in 29 years. It must be a surreal thing for the lifetime United fan who fulfilled his dream playing for and winning every trophy possible with Manchester United, to leave the club just as it appears to be heading back towards success. There’s a big world out there and Giggs will have the opportunity to make a name for himself, but it now will be away from United. If he takes that opportunity, we could see the Welshman running down the wings again at Old Trafford, but this time as the manager of the club he helped make so great.
Ryan Giggs and Manchester United released a statement on Saturday afternoon confirming the Welshman’s departure from the Theatre of Dreams, with Giggs saying:
“After 29 seasons at Manchester United as a player and assistant manager, I know winning is in the DNA of this club – giving youth a chance, and playing attacking and exciting football. It’s healthy to have high expectations, it’s right to expect to win. Manchester United expects, deserves, nothing less.
“This is why it is a huge decision for me to step away from the club that has been my life since the age of 14. It has not been a decision that I have made lightly. I’ll take away so many special memories as well as a lifetime of experiences that will, I hope, serve me well in the future.
“However, the time feels right and, although I have no immediate plans to step into management, it is where I want to be.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate in having two great managerial mentors; first in Sir Alex, who I’ve spent the majority of my life working with and learning from and who I believe will remain as football’s greatest-ever manager and in more recent times, Louis van Gaal, whose CV speaks for itself. The knowledge I have gleaned from them has been invaluable.
“I want to reiterate my thanks to the backroom staff and support teams at Manchester United I’ve worked with over the years. The results on the pitch are a reflection of the hard work off it. I would not have achieved the success I have without the dedication, sacrifice and commitment of these people in creating the best environment for the team to succeed.
“I want to congratulate José Mourinho on his appointment as manager of the world’s biggest club. There are only a handful of proven winners at the very highest level and José is unquestionably one of them. I know the fans will welcome him.
“My final thank you is to the fans. I cannot begin to tell you how much I will miss walking out at Old Trafford in front of you. It’s extremely difficult to say goodbye after 29 years. I have loved every minute both as a player and assistant manager. The support you have always shown me has been phenomenal; thank you.
“It’s time for a new chapter and a new challenge. I’m excited about the future – I’ve had the best apprenticeship into management anyone could ever ask for.”
Manchester United Executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, speaking about Giggs’ departure said:
“Ryan’s place in the history of Manchester United is assured. He has been a constant presence at the club since 1987 and, during his playing days, regularly delighted crowds; first with his dazzling wing play and later with his intelligence and ability to dictate a game.
“He has tackled his coaching and management responsibilities with similar rigour and diligence. The experiences and discipline he developed at United will undoubtedly be a big help as he continues to learn his trade. He has all the attributes to be a terrific manager in the future. Everyone at the club wishes him well in his new career. He will be missed but will always be welcome at Manchester United.”