We’ve heard often enough that the dictionary has nothing more to offer those attempting to describe Ryan Giggs. The man transcends definition, not least because he is a study in sporting evolution.
Examine the setting for Giggs’ 1,000th career game, in his 40th year. Reaching such a marker would be a noteworthy feat even for the most battle-hardened lower-league clogger, but United’s record appearance-maker met the milestone as a right winger against Real Madrid in the Champions League and won the man of the match award.
His senior career pre-dates the National Lottery, the commercialisation of the Internet and the birth of Phil Jones, yet still Giggs is as functional as he has ever been – arguably a better player than he was five years ago and quite possibly ten years ago. Moreover, he is a different player. Armed with the experiences of 23 seasons in Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team, he is a highly-sophisticated tactical weapon deployable at his manager’s behest.
The jet-heeled whippet who scourged right-backs with his turf tapestry is long gone, but all of his experiences have been retained. Giggs may now be more silver than quicksilver, yet he’s capable of operating on either wing, off a striker, in central midfield or, at a push, as an auxiliary left-back. On Boxing Day 2008, as United chased victory at Stoke City, 35-year-old Giggs moved to the left side of defence for 25 minutes to accommodate Dimitar Berbatov’s introduction. United won and kept a clean sheet.
“His flexibility has improved with age,” says assistant manager Mike Phelan. “He can play in numerous positions now and adapt into those that require more maturity. When he was younger, he got away with a lot of things because he was young and he could make mistakes. He was seen as a wide player with great dribbling skills and pace and quality on the ball, whereas now he’s brought all those to the fore in different