At the age of 40 and after 963 appearances, making him the record appearance holder at Manchester United, Ryan Giggs has finally retired from professional football.
The Welsh wizard will be kept on at the club as Louis Van Gaal‘s assistant so it will be some time, if ever, before he fully steps away from Old Trafford.
But the number 11 shirt will be vacant for the first time in 24 very successful years and it remains to be seen how the reds will fill the void left by the veteran.
Giggs first senior appearance was in a 2-0 defeat against Everton but back when he was known as Ryan Wilson, he was touted for greatness.
When he was just 13, Sir Alex Ferguson said of him that “he just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind.”
Ferguson, along with scout Joe Brown famously wooed the young Giggs to the club with a two year schoolboy contract, despite training with neighbours Manchester City as a youngster. Giggs could arguably be considered Ferguson’s greatest ever signing.
The youngster gave City a glimpse of what they missed out on with the only goal in a Manchester derby.
From there, the only way was up.
As soon as he made his debut, comparisons were inevitably made with George Best, with Best famously turning the comparison on it’s head by saying “one day they may say I was another Ryan Giggs,” highlighting his undoubted talent.
With the arrival of the rest of the “Class of 92”, he reached his professional peak in 1999 as United became the first English side to win the treble after a crazy night in Barcelona.
From there, the reds were tipped to rule Europe but the arrival of the noughties brought Giggs’ nadir at the club, where he was often booed at matches and rumours of a move to Inter Milan left some United fans hopeful instead of devastated.
Famously turning Alessandro Del Piero to tears, he broke the hearts of many other Juventus fans with a sensational performance in Turin in 2003.
Four years prior, Giggs grabbed a pivotal equalizer to keep United’s treble dreams alive in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. The second leg saw a closely fought encounter which the reds came out on top thanks to the brilliance of Roy Keane.
Thanks to Giggs, the 2003 game between the two giants fell a lot more in United’s favour.
In a twist of fate, Diego Forlan was forced off with an injury in the eighth minute, which meant Ferguson was forced to bring on Giggs.
The Welshman turned the game on it’s head, scoring two goals as United ran out 3-0 winners.
Talk of him leaving soon quietened down.
As age and injuries robbed him of his famed pace, Giggs changed his game and evolved to become a fine central midfielder, where he played a crucial role in United’s doomed 2011 Champions League run.
Despite his age, he was still seen as a crucial player within the side and often featured in games in the second half of the season, where Ferguson believed the fresher pitches would help his performances.
Unlike Ferguson, Moyes opted to not utilise Giggs’ that much as rumours of a poor relationship between the duo raged on.
But he called upon the veteran to help him out of a sticky situation in the second leg against Olympiacos, where United were facing a battle to overturn a 2-0 deficit.
Thanks to sensational performances from Giggs and Robin Van Persie, United made it past Olympiacos and Moyes was able to live to fight another day.
Amidst a chaotic season, another unwanted record would be that Giggs was unable to score a goal to keep his record of scoring in every Premier League season in which he played alive.
However, he will now surely be relieved that “he doesn’t have to think about a game in two days and that he can wolf down his pasta.”
Giggs finished his playing career with 13 Premier Leagues, 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 9 Community Shields, 2 Champions League, 1 Club World Cup and 1 Super Cup. If that was a rap sheet, Giggs would be considered a lifer.
The Welshman has seen the rest of the Class of 92 make their debuts and retire before him, he outlasted Sir Alex Ferguson and has won more trophies than both Chelsea and Manchester City combined.
To list the amount of players who were still young children or not even born when Giggs first made his debut would fill up most of this piece.
In truth, Giggs is a freak of nature, there will never be a player of his ilk again and although there were players who were better than him at United, there will be none who have been as important to the club as the Welshman.