Full name Ryan Joseph Giggs OBE
Date of birth 29/11/1973
Place of birth Cardiff, Wales
Where to start with Ryan Giggs, the Welsh Wizard? The first image that will come into anyone’s mind would no doubt be that goal against Arsenal. Without doubt one of the best solo goals ever witnessed in football, and certainly one that will live long in the memory of any United fan.
Ryan Joseph Giggs was in fact born Ryan Joseph Wilson. His father, Danny Wilson, was a noted rugby league player. He later changed his surname to Giggs, after his mother Lynne. He was born in Cardiff, although he was brought up in Pendlebury, thus explaining his Mancunian accent.
Having starred as captain of England Schoolboys, he made his Wales debut at the tender age of 17, becoming the youngest player to represent his country at the highest level. He was appointed captain of Wales in 2004.
Life Before United
Believe it or not, Giggs started out across Manchester at bitter rivals City, playing there until the age of 14, when Alex Ferguson took advantage of City’s surprising unwillingness to sign him up.
After starting out as a junior at Deans Sports F.C. in Swinton, and being spotted at 14 by City, United boss Alex Ferguson personally went to his house to urge him to sign for United. After waiving Youth Training Scheme forms with the opportunity to turn professional in three years, Ferguson persuaded him to join the Red Devils.
England Under-21 coach Lawrie McMenemy was not so lucky. Giggs was ineligible to play for England; neither his parents nor his grandparents were English.
Having turned up at City training sessions in a United shirt, it was plain to see who he wanted to play for, and he remains one of the rare breeds of player to play for the same club for an entire career, clocking up over 700 appearances in the process.
After making a brief debut at home to Everton in March 1991, he instantly made a name for himself in his first start, scoring the winner in a 1-0 win over Manchester City at Old Trafford. This set the tone for what was to be a magnificent career.
Giggs won his first major silverware in 1992, when United won the League Cup. After Alan Hansen famously declared "You don’t win anything with kids", Giggs then helped "Fergie’s Fledglings" to their first Premier League triumph in 1993. He then became the first player to collect the PFA Young Player of the Year award in consecutive years (‘92 and ‘93), before United did their first League and Cup double in ‘94.
The most avid United fans will remember Giggs’ two stunning goals at Tottenham Hotspurs in ’93 and at Queens Park Rangers in ‘94. By the time United had done the ‘Double double’ in ‘96 and then ‘97, Giggs had become a household name in the world of football, and was helping the Red Devils turn the screw on the European stage.
Likened to the late George Best for his awesome balance and speed with ball at feet, and devastating finishing, Giggs holds the record of top goalscorer for a non-striker. Playing alongside "Fergie’s Fledglings" – Messrs Beckham, Butt, Scholes and the Neville brothers – and other stars like Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Peter Schmeichel, United became an irresistible force in domestic and European football, slowly moving towards “the promised land” as Clive Tyldesley labelled it.
That Goal, That Game
They then managed to do what no team may ever achieve again, winning the three biggest prizes in English club football to win an incredible Treble. Before the last-day drama of the 1998-99 Premier League season, which United won, Giggs scored possibly the best solo goal in football history, to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi-Final Replay.
After Patrick Vieira gave the ball away on the halfway line, Giggs took the ball past five Arsenal players, before smashing the ball into the roof of the net past David Seaman. He then came up with one of the most memorable celebrations by taking his shirt off and waving his shirt round above his head, amid scenes of madness at Villa Park.
While he hit the ground running playing for United, his Wales career never really took off. Despite being a national icon, becoming captain of his country, he never enjoyed the same success with Wales as he did with United.
After that historic treble, he picked up three back-to-back league winners’ medals, after a terrific 2000-01 season, before spells on the sidelines with hamstring problems briefly put a dent in his form.
For the first season since 1997-98, United went trophyless in 2001-02, with Arsenal taking the domestic double, and Bayer Leverkusen defeating United in the Champions League Semi-Final. Giggs’ form was being brought into question by more critics, and even the most loyal United fans began to dispute his ability to produce at the highest level.
It was also rumoured that long-term admirers Inter Milan were ready to secure the Welshman’s services, but he soon extinguished any doubt about his Old Trafford future by signing a new contract until 2006. He has since extended that contract to 2008. After “that” howling miss at home to Arsenal in the FA Cup 5th Round in December 2002, in which he missed an open goal, his form started to improve steadily.
Back To His Best
He peaked at just the right time in the 2002-03 league season, claiming his eighth Premier League winners’ medal. He scored the vital equaliser at Highbury late on in that season, swinging the momentum in the title race towards the Red Devils. He also scored a priceless brace at the Stadio Del Alpi, as United triumphed 3-0 against Juventus. United eventually went out at the knockout stages, going down 6-4 on aggregate against Real Madrid.
In the following season, Giggs picked up his 4th FA Cup winners’ medal, starring in the 3-0 win against Millwall at the Millennium Stadium. After missing only four games in 2002-03, he missed a mere five games in the cup-winning season, and his injury problems were behind him, giving him license to play the way he knows best, terrorising defenders and scoring key goals.
Despite a barren 2004-05 season, Giggs still played some great football. The 2005-06 season brought one of Manchester United’s darker days, as they failed to qualify through the Champions League group stages. After suffering a fractured cheekbone and missing much of the season, this was a season to forget for Giggs, with the capture of the Carling Cup providing little solace in what was a disappointing campaign.
Then, after two years of Chelsea dominance in the league, United were back at the pinnacle of English club football, taking the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford. He played a pivotal role in an irresistible Manchester United team, scoring crucial goals at crucial times.
Shortly afterwards he retired from international football, saying an emotional farewell in his hometown Cardiff, at the Millennium Stadium, in a match against the Czech Republic.
This has only improved his recent form, and last season he made his 700th appearance in a United shirt, in the 1-0 win against Liverpool at Anfield. He is now less than 60 appearances away from breaking Bobby Charlton’s all-time record of appearances, and has made over 100 appearances in European club football. He now aims to win his tenth Premier League medal. He already holds nine medals, already a record, but is striving to make that ten.
Ryan Giggs, the Welsh wizard, is soon to reach the sunset of a fantastic career, but United fans all across the globe hope he continues for many years to come. Although he is revered all over the world, defenders and fans of other clubs alike will be praying for his retirement!
Individual Awards and Honours
- 1992-1993 PFA Young Player of the Year
- 1995, 2006 Wales Player of the Year
- 1996 BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year
- 1997-1998 Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award
- 2005 Named in England Football Hall of Fame
- 2007 Awarded OBE