Titus Chalks England-Kolumne (26) + Bilder
How are you, Premier League?
Ryan Giggs ist ein Phänomen. Seit 20 Jahren spielt der Waliser erfolgreich für Manchester United – und hängt noch ein Jahr dran. Diesen Mann in Worten zu beschreiben ist fast unmöglich. Kolumnist Titus Chalk versucht es trotzdem.
The resplendent Brazil shirt is one of football’s most potent symbols. It connotes artistry, flamboyance and a winning pedigree perhaps more than any other in the entire game. And this week, as one phenomenon who wore it hung up his boots, another who could have worn it put pen to paper on a deal to play his 21st season for Manchester United.
After a friendly between Wales and Brazil in 2006, the then Brazil manager Dunga lavished praised on opponent Ryan Giggs. “Any manager in the world would like a player like Giggs in their side,” he said. “And I am no different.” There can be few British players who, even well into their thirties as Giggs was in 2006, command such attention. Dunga, a World Cup winner in 1994 who seemed to mistrust individual skill in the Brazil team he managed, saw in the Welsh winger qualities fit for the Seleção: dedication, humility and a sublime ease on the ball. Were he not such a proud Welshman or loyal Red Devil, Giggs would not look out of place in gold.
862 matches, 158 goals
The 37-year-old made his debut for his only club in 1991, came of age with the Premier League as one of its defining stars and has now played an astounding 862 matches for Manchester United, scoring 158 goals in the process. He signed a one-year contract extension last Friday, the same week as 34-year-old Ronaldo retired and two and half weeks after United right-back Gary Neville, 36, also called it a day. To describe his career as miraculous is almost correct – except that it does not credit Giggs enough with the immense commitment it must take to remain a star at one of the world’s biggest football clubs for such a remarkably long time. »You run out of words to describe Ryan,« said Ferguson last week. »He is a marvellous player and a wonderful man.«
It took a wake up call from Fergie in Giggs’ early career to get him here though. The manager hauled him back from a party at Lee Sharpe’s house in 1992 and rattled him with a rabid dressing down. Sharpe did not pay quite the same attention to his manager, revelled in his party lifestyle and, after initially receiving more hype than Giggs, fell by the wayside. He is better known by many today for his ‘career’ in reality TV. Giggs knuckled down, withdrew from the spotlight, and went about the serious business of winning trophies. Though he says the moment Ferguson told him he was making his debut as a 17-year-old feels like yesterday, Giggs has never looked back. Instead, he plays with the same hunger for victory he as always had.
Football in a phone box
If there is one double-edge in the veteran’s career, it has been his lack of exposure on at major international tournaments. Wales have not troubled the World Cup for far too long, and therefore Giggs has never quite become a household name. He is a specimen instead beloved of football’s cognescenti, earning recognition with the general public only through the sheer longevity of his career and the subsequent number of iterations his name has achieved on the airwaves and in print.
The summers off though have spared Giggs’ body a battering. He may not have Ronaldo’s World Cup goals, but his knees have held out and his game has matured with his body. The speed merchant who used to give defenders »twisted blood« conserves his energy today and uses superior touch and vision to side step defenders who he would previously bamboozle with pace. Says Carlos Queiroz, Ferguson’s former assistant of him: »Ryan could play football in a phone box and find the door no matter how many players were in there with him.«
Still vital to United
Thankfully, he has been afforded a more expansive stage to perform on. For while he has missed World Cups and European Championships, he has also lived (and arguably been instrumental in) the demise of international football as the game’s gold standard and its replacement by the Champions League. Accordingly, Giggs has two winners medals from the competition, having set up Teddy Sheringham’s equaliser for United against Bayern Munich in 1999 and scored United’s final penalty against Chelsea in 2008. Entire footballing careers can pass by in nine years. Giggs meanwhile remained a constant measure of quality.
This season, he has already made a significant 24 appearances for United. He has scored three times in the process to maintain his incredible record of being the only person to have played and scored in every Premier League season. With his contribution still so vital it is hard to see how he will replaced when he finally calls his career to an end. There have been pretenders to the left-wing in United’s ranks during Giggs’ time at the club, but looking at the squad today, like-for-like candidates are thin on the ground.
Too humble to be true
While his skill set might be replaceable (someone like Ravel Morrsion might even surpass it), his mentality and temperament are perhaps already extinct in the next generation of footballers. Morrison for example narrowly escaped a jail sentence three weeks ago for intimidating a witness in a trial. Even Wayne Rooney has shown what loyalty exists in the modern Manchester United dressing room, by agitating for a move across town having previously proclaimed his desire to stay at United for life.
Giggs meanwhile, who has never, received a red card in his entire United career, goes about his work with little fuss and contributes on and off the pitch to United’s success. He is not a loud character (Peter Schmeichel believes that to be the only reason he was not appointed club captain) – but he commands the respect of his team-mates. Even George Best and Bobby Charlton used to regularly visit the Cliff, the club’s old training ground, to watch the mop-haired teenager play.
Today, the thick black curls might have been replaced by a greying pelt, but Giggs remains an exquisite footballer. He has 23 winners’ medals to his name, including 11 league titles, and with both himself and his side in rude health, his 12th can surely not be far away.
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die englische Fußball-Kultur auf Deutsch
Folge 27: A true gentleman
England ein Land ist, in dem die Klassegliederung sehr wichtig verbleibt. Deshalb, bitte die Welt zeigen, dass deine Mutti dich gut grossgezogen hat. Sei ein Gentleman, ein Kavalier, wie David Beckham. Dieser hat letzte Woche, wegen der Ende seinen Gastaufhalt bei Spurs, den ganzen Kader für »Pie and Mash’«eingeladen. Harry Redknapp war bewegt: »Ich habe selbst drei Pies gegessen,« sagte er, eine Träne in die Augen. Es war aber zwei Wochen vorher, dass Beckham wirklich bewiesen hat, dass er ein perfekten Gentleman ist. An einem Morgen, unterwegs nach Spurs, hat er sein Auto zum Halt gebracht, um einer famille zu helfen, die eine Panne gehabt hat. Beckham hat ohne Aufheben, dem Vater geholfen, sein Auto ausserhalb der Strasse zu drucken, vor ihm Lebewohl zu sagen. Der schockierte Fahrer konnte einfach sagen: »Thanks David – I love you!« Ich auch. Ich auch.