I am about to commit heresy. And I’m okay with that. If you’re uncomfortable reading the words of a heretic, please feel free to skip to another post.
Ryan Giggs, not Roy Keane, was the heart and soul of all those medal-winning Manchester United teams of the 1990s and 2000s.
Sure, Keano was the firebrand. He was the one who got up in everyone’s face except Fergie’s. He kept the snot-nosed brats, and the hardened vets, in line. He was the one who led the team onto the field more often than not. He was the hard man in the middle. But, for all of that, he was eminently replaceable.
Giggsy is not. Now aged 139, he’s been a Red Devil for at least three of my lifetimes. Perhaps he is a descendant of Galahad and partook of the Fountain of Youth (or maybe he is Galahad; he still looks about 25 years old to me). He is every bit the leader Keano was but he’s also a calming influence. The current United squad looks more confident when he’s on the pitch; it looks like it can take on the world.
Add to that his considerable skills, which haven’t diminished (aside from declining speed). He’s the best free-kick taker on the current roster; his corners and free kicks have been excellent all season long. Add to that his superb passes to the feet of Wayne Rooney and Mickey Owen and it’s plain that his skill far exceeds Keano’s, even at this age. He is one goal short of 100 in the Premiership and it says here that he’ll get it in the next month.
It seems to me that Giggsy’s sublime runs – today he nutmegged one defender and juked around another, creating a scoring chance – have been consistently underappreciated. He is more than a cog in Sir Alex’s machine; he is, perhaps, the driving force. The same cannot be said for Keano or Paul Scholes or Gary Neville or even Rio Ferdinand. Keano’s number wasn’t retired when he left; I think it’s entirely possible that nobody will wear number 11 for a good while after Giggs finally hands up his boots(of course, number 7 wasn’t retired for George Best so perhaps I’m wrong).
He is the slightly gaunt face of Sir Alex’s time at United and, for that, he needs to be recognized.