Veteran Players at Manchester United: Risk vs Reward?

The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Manchester United this summer has been the main story in football for several weeks, with everyone having an opinion on the signing, weighing up the pros and cons of signing the striker, regarded by many as one of the best players of all time. 

One of the key talking points of the transfer has been the age of Ronaldo, at 36, the €13.5 million United paid for him is the most expensive fee ever paid for a footballer over the age of 35. For some, even for Ronaldo, this was as risk due to many players retiring around 35 in football, however at United, there is a history of players achieving great things while in the perceived twilight of their careers. 

The most obvious example of this would be Ryan Giggs, a player who was an Academy graduate at the club, Giggs won all there was to win at United before retiring at the age of 40 and becoming Louis van Gaal’s assistant coach, as reported by ESPN. If we perceive over 35 as the benchmark for players in the twilight of their careers, Giggs achieved a tremendous amount during that period. 

Most notably, at the age of 35, Ryan Giggs was awarded with the PFA player of the year award, a particularly prestigious award that is voted for by fellow players in the league, with the Guardian reporting it as the ‘highest honour possible’.

 During this season Giggs made 47 appearances for the club, scoring four goals and getting 17 assists across all competitions. During this season he played a crucial role in getting Manchester United into another Champions league final as well as winning the Premier League, League Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup. 

The fact that Giggs won this accolade in a season where United achieved so much, indicates how crucial he was to the success of the team, and shows that even in the perceived twilight of his career, Giggs was more than a valuable player for United. Many fans will be hoping that Ronaldo can replicate the longevity of the Welsh winger. 

Teddy Sheringham is another footballer who had the best season of his United career, in terms of goals and assists, when he was 35. In the 2000/01 season Sheringham scored 21 goals across all competitions, significantly helping United win the Premier League that season. On top of this, Sheringham was awarded the PFA player of the year award, becoming the oldest player to do so at the time, as was reported by Sky Sports

Once again this shows how valuable veteran players can be at a club like United with both Giggs and Sheringham winning one of the most prestigious personal accolades in football at an age many pundits and fans deem a player ‘finished’ at the highest level. 

More recently United have been criticised for signing players for cheap prices who are in their 30’s, most notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016, and Edinson Cavani in 2020. Both players were signed on high wages and were in their mid 30’s at the time of signing, leading to criticism on both. 

However, both strikers have played vital parts during their time at the club, with Ibrahimovic leaving the club having scored 29 goals in 53 appearances and helping the club towards the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League trophies, as reported by Manchester Evening News.

Similarly, Cavani’s signing was met with suspicion from fans and pundits alike, with Gary Neville labelling the transfer of the Uruguayan ‘very last minute’ as reported by Sky Sports. However, Cavani soon changed opinions, scoring crucial goals all through the 2020/21 campaign, ending with 17 goals and 6 assists in 39 appearances. Cavani once again proved that signing an experienced player can be hugely beneficial to a club like United.  

These examples are of course highlighting the instances when players towards the end of their career have been a success for United, and there is no doubt that at other times this strategy has not paid off for the club, in recent memory players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Alexis Sanchez both arrived at the club in their twilight, with big expectations, and did not live up to them. 

 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has proven during his time at manager that his main focus is developing a young team that can go on to great success, shown through the integration of Mason Greenwood and the more recent signing of youngster Jadon Sancho

However, he has also highlighted how key experience is for a team like United with the signings of Harry Maguire, Cavani and now Ronaldo. Solskjaer commented on the suspicions of Ronaldo’s age stating ‘I am sure he likes all the talk about being old. Make it personal and he will show what he can do.’, as reported by The Guardian

There is no doubt that Ronaldo can go on to replicate the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Ryan Giggs during his second spell at United and bring much success to the club. The striker has already gotten off to the perfect start, scoring two in his second debut against Newcastle United at Old Trafford. 

With no sign of the Portuguese star slowing up any time soon, United fans will be hopeful that once again one of their veteran players can prove the doubters wrong. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

Manchester United urged to sign Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish by Ryan Giggs

Former Manchester United academy graduate Ryan Giggs as urged his former teammate, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to sign both Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho and Aston Villa attacking midfielder Jack Grealish this summer. Reports on Monday gave the impression that United and Dortmund were getting closer to an eventual agreement for Sancho to join the Old Trafford club, with Alexis Sanchez seemingly out of the door with Inter Milan close to securing him on a permanent deal, leaving United as a free agent.

Giggs will be hopeful, as a fan of the club, that Solskjaer can get something happening with the club in order to have them challenge the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City to contend for the Premier League title next season. The additions of Sancho and Grealish could help massively with United lacking creativity without Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and the likes of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford on the pitch. Of course, United will have to strengthen in other areas too.

United could have a brilliant transfer window this summer, despite the coronavirus pandemic which was, at one stage, set to ruin everything. The club has required a stable plan for years and with Solskjaer, they seem to have that, which is a good thing. It is the most positive I have seen things at United since before Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, which was also the last time United won the Premier League. Giggs, speaking on YouTube channel Webby and O’Neil, the club legend said:

“[Jadon] Sancho is quick, direct but also an intelligent player. What I like about him is when he gets into them areas with the final ball, he doesn’t panic.

“A lot of quick wide players sometimes do but he picks out the right pass. 

“He’s someone who can counter-attack if we’re going to play that but also if a team are going to sit back, he can beat players and make things happen.”

Imagine a team that can start the likes of Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Sancho and Anthony Martial then having the squad strength to bring on the likes of Grealish, Scott McTominay, Odion Ighalo and others to keep the club in charge of matches but also keeping the players fresh during what will be a long and hard season with the club not just expected to challenge for the Premier League title, but also returning to the UEFA Champions League, which is a tough competition to play in, although better playing on a Tuesday or a Wednesday as opposed to a Thursday, meaning Sunday or Monday matches in the league.

During the 2019/20 season at Dortmund, Sancho played a total of 44 times for the club, scoring 20 goals and 20 assists, offering a goal or assist every 0.90 matches, which is a great stat for a player of his age, 20. If he could carry that sort of form into the Premier League, he will be an important player immediately. Grealish played a total of 41 times for Villa this season, who avoided relegation, scoring 10 goals and eight assists, meaning he was involved in a goalscoring opportunity every 0.44 matches, which is not as good as Sancho but is still a good output. Giggs continued by talking about Grealish, saying:

“I think the thing with Grealish is he’s obviously used to the Premier League and doesn’t need to adapt to it so that’s good.

“For me from the outside, it looks like he’s got the mentality to come to this place and not bother him.

“They (Sancho and Grealish) are two signings that may be available and if we’re able to get them, I would go and get them.”

You can watch the interview with Giggs below;

Written by John Walker

Manchester United need three star transfers to compete next season

Former Manchester United winger and Class of 1992 graduate Ryan Giggs has stated that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need three first team quality stars this summer in order to see his team challenge for the Premier League title and return to action in the UEFA Champions League next season. Solskjaer was the key to a surge I the league since the Premier League restart which saw the club make up a 14-point deficit with Leicester City, finishing four points clear of the side.

United’s third place finish in the league will be seen as a positive and the first step in a long way back to the pinnacle of English and European football but there is a long road ahead. This summer, United have been linked to Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho and it is imperative that United bring in the 20-year-old or a player of a similar quality to make forward steps next season. The 2019/20 season was not a disaster but it could have been at times.

United’s season was made after signing Bruno Fernandes during the January transfer window and since then, despite the three-month suspension of football, he has become fully integrated in the squad and at times, it looks like he has been playing with his new teammates for a number of years. Giggs thinks that no fewer than three new signings will do and after winning 13 Premier League titles with the club, he would know what is needed to take on the best in the league.

This will be a huge summer for United. Last summer, Solskjaer managed to bring in three players; Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, adding Fernandes during the January transfer window. United will need to hit the ground running this summer as there will be no long summer break before the new season starts. Speaking to Premier League Productions, reported by The Sun, Giggs said:

“It’s huge for attracting players. Some players will choose clubs that are in the Champions League.

“And [it helps] in holding on to some players too. It’s just huge. Eventually when we get crowds back, Champions League nights at Old Trafford are special.

“Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer]’s beginning to mould a team which is exciting. He said that they were running out of legs a little bit.

“After lockdown, he’s played the same team more or less, which he had to because they’re on such a good run – so it was hard to chop and change.

“They need three players I would say that can go into the starting XI, even to challenge for the league and the Champions League next year.”

United may be a work in progress but next season will be a big one for Solskjaer and United. After finishing third in the Premier League this season, which was achieved on the final day fo the season, United will be expected to better that next season. Also returning to the UEFA Champions League will be pressure on the squad and the manager. Just competing in the competition will not be enough, United will be seeking to take their participation by the scruff of the neck and try to move forward. Playing against better teams and players in Europe will hopefully bring out the best of United’s players.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United need three big signings this summer in order to compete

Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs thinks that United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need three big transfers this summer in order compete for the Premier League title and beyond with the likes of champions Liverpool and rivals Manchester City. It is clear to see, despite City’s demise this season, they are much better than United, or at least have been on a more consistent level, like Liverpool.

More recently, United have progressed considerably and are currently on a 19-match unbeaten run which stretches back to before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown with United unbeaten since Bruno Fernandes signed for the club and after Project Restart, United have played some brilliant football, ground out some great results and some not so great, despite being undefeated, in search of UEFA Champions League football.

Fernandes, 25, has given United a new dimension which has got Paul Pogba hungry again after a season to forget with injury but United seem to lack top class players and if one or more are rested, instead of going forward, the club slightly regresses as the ability to carry the team through matches is not quite there with players falling short of what is needed. It is clear that reinforcement this summer is important.

Giggs won 34 trophies during his career with United, playing for only one club during his entire career. He also became the interim manager after David Moyes was sacked, then becoming an assistant to Louis van Gaal and is currently the Wales manager. The Welsh winger has knowledge of what it takes to achieve things at United, so in opinion on the matter is something I respect. Speaking to Premier League Productions as reported by The Sun, Giggs said:

“I still think we’re off City and Liverpool by two or three players. Good characters are coming in. You see [Bruno] Fernandes, he looks like a leader, he looks like a character. [Harry] Maguire, he’s their captain.

“It’s not just about having the players, it’s about having that culture, that character that can improve not only the starting eleven but the squad and the overall feeling around the club.

“They’re certainly moving in the right direction. But, I still believe we need three new players.”

United have been heavily linked with Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho this summer but a €120 million asking price might be the main things that kills a deal this summer, despite optimism from some journalists in the United Kingdom and around Europe. With the coronavirus pandemic and the fact supporters are not present at matches, it might create a shortfall of money which will affect transfers. At least that is what has come out of the club recenty.

Over the years at United, whilst Giggs was a player, there were many big name players who arrived at the club from Andy Cole to Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Cristiano Ronaldo to Wayne Rooney – all of whom endured a lot of success at the Old Trafford club, raising the bar and keeping Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominance of domestic and European football going. If Solskjaer is going to implement something like this at United, he will need reinforcement at the club, continuing this summer.

Last summer, Solskjaer made three signings; Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire – all of whom have done well, with a few struggles here and there. In January, Fernandes arrived at the club and his eight goals and eight assists in 17 appearances kind of speak for themselves. Odion Ighalo was also signed for the remainder of the season on loan, which was extended (because of the coronavirus pandemic) meaning the player will remain at United until the end of January 2021.

In order to head in the right direction though, United will need to get rid of the players who are not achieving at the club. Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Alexis Sanchez are currently away from the club on loan and the likes of Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, and Diogo Dalot seem to be out of sorts in the respect that they rarely play. In Lingard’s case, he does not seem to offer much, hence why he rarely plays. United need to bring in quality players, three for a start, who will greatly change the overall quality of the squad, helping United make the grade and bring to challenge to both Liverpool and City.

Written by John Walker

Ryan Giggs awarded Athletic Bilbao accolade ‘One Club Man’ for Manchester United career

Wales manager and former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs has been awarded an accolade by Spanish club Athletic Bilbao, which in 2019 was awarded to Celtic legend Billy McNeil. The One Club Man honour for 2020 was awarded to Giggs, who signed for United at the age of 14 in 1987, turning pro at the club at the age of 17 in 1990.

Giggs then made his first team debut in March 1991, playing a total of 963 times for the club, over 24 years which has seen him become the most decorated player in English football. Giggs will share the label, One Club Man with many footballing greats including; Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, and current Athletic Bilbao player, Iker Muniain.

During his time at United, Giggs has won many things including 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, nine FA Community Shields, two UEFA Champions League titles, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, and one FIFA Club World Cup. He was also named the PFA Young Player of the Year twice; in 1991/92 and 1992/93.

The Bilbao club says it gave the annual accolade to Giggs for his fantastic professional career with Manchester United which lasted 24 years. Back in March 2012 when Giggs played against Athletic Bilbao in the UEFA Europa League, which saw United exit the competition after 5-3 aggregate loss, the club’s fans gave the player a standing ovation.

“We speak of a world class footballer who has demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to their club.”

During his career as a player at United, he was made the interim manager after the sacking of David Moyes during the 2013/14 season, where he took charge of the final four matches of the season, a season which United finished seventh in the Premier League. After playing his last match in the 2013/14 season, Giggs was the assistant manager under Louis van Gaal until he was sacked at the end of the 2015/16 season.

The Bilbao club has stated that Giggs, 46 has accepted an invitation to receive the award at the San Mames stadium once travel restrictions are out of the way following the coronavirus pandemic which suspended world football in mid-March. It will be another proud honour for Giggs, along with all the other he has received over the years.

During his time at United, playing 963 times for the Old Trafford club, which includes 672 league appearances, 74 FA Cup appearances, 41 League Cup appearances, and 157 European appearances, plus 19 appearances in other competitions, scoring 168 goals for the club and 248 assists, which is some achievement.

Giggs has played football with many club legends from Steve Bruce, Bryan Robson, Gary Pallister, Peter Schmeichel, Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Cristiano Ronaldo and current manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Currently, Giggs is the manager of the Wales national team, succeeding Chris Coleman on the 15 January 2018. As a player, Giggs was capped 64 times by Wales, scoring 12 goals, also being capped four times, scoring once for Team GB at the 2012 Olympics in London. He’s managed 19 matches for Wales, winning nine, drawing three and losing seven.

Ryan Giggs names Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes as the best two players he ever played with at Manchester United

Manchester United winger, Ryan Giggs spend the entirety of his playing career at the Old Trafford club, making his debut on the 2 March 1991 at the age of 17 and playing his last match on the 6 May 2014, aged 40 at the time. It was a successful period of time for the Welsh winger, who is now the manager of his home nation, Wales.

Giggs played a total of 963 times, starting 802 times, appearing as a substitute 161 times. He scored 168 goals in his club career, also assisting 247 times, playing more than 68,000 minutes of football. Giggs is the most decorated player in English club history, winning nearly everything he could in the game, including 13 Premier League titles.

Giggs has played with many great players, including Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes. However, it is the latter two who he considered the best players he has ever played with. Speaking recently with Manchester United, he said:

“The best player I played with is Cristiano Ronaldo. Obviously he was only there for a short space of time and he was brilliant for United and then went on to do even better elsewhere.

“Scholesy is the best player I’ve played with at United. You’ve all seen it in training – you couldn’t get near him. His brain was just quicker than everyone else, his range of passing, nasty.

“You think you’ve got him and he’ll just pop it off and give it the little faint. He was just brilliant in training.”

Ronaldo was a magnificent player and one that United missed after he left for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009. For United, he made a total of 292 appearances for the club, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists, winning three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the FA Community Shield, the Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Ronaldo signed for United from Sporting Clube de Portugal in the summer of 2003, after playing 31 times for the club, scoring five goals and five assists, replacing Beckham and wearing the famous number seven shirt, scoring some cracking goals, from his free-kick against Portugal to the opening goal of the Champions League final in 2008.

Leaving United in the summer of 2009 for £80 million, Real Madrid was his future, playing a total of 438 times for the club, scoring 450 goals and 131 assists, winning La Liga twice, four Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups, among others. Now playing for Juventus, Ronaldo has played 75 times, scoring 53 goals and 14 assists, winning the Serie A and the Supercoppa Italiana.

Scholes played for twenty years, three fewer than Giggs, retiring from the club twice. He made his debut on the 21 September 1994 at the age of 19, playing his final game on the 19 May 2013, aged 38. Scholes played a total of 718 times, starting 577 and appearing as a substitute 141 times, scoring 155 goals and 73 assists, playing more than 51,000 minutes of football.

Scholes was a great player for United and played with the liked of Roy Keane, Rooney, Giggs, Ronaldo, Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, amongst others. He played against some of the greatest footballers of European and World football, many of whom praised the player as being one of the greatest ever midfielders.

Scholes did not achieve as much as Giggs at the club, ending his career at the same time as legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. He won 11 Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, five Community Shields, two Champions Leagues, one Intercontinental Cup and one Club World Cup. A true legend of the game, just like Giggs and Ronaldo.

copyright: JW