Be grateful for Giggs, a gift that keeps on giving
Ryan Giggs' thrilling performance against Chelsea showed he still has plenty to offer
Ryan Giggs scores his famous goal against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final, perhaps his
finest moment in a United shirt. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Allsport
The most decorated footballer in English football history has cut a peripheral figure of late, playing
second fiddle to the dynamic work rate of Park Ji-sung or the amusement-arcade trickery of the
showboating Nani. But in a week that began with him speculating about his imminent retirement,
Ryan Giggs thrillingly rolled back the years against Chelsea in a performance that made the true
football romantic tingle and captured just why he has been the heartbeat of so many great sides
at Manchester United over the past 18 years.
That he did it in the unaccustomed starting role of central midfielder against an admittedly leaden
and lackadaisical Chelsea side was something of a surprise — more from Sir Alex Ferguson's bold
deployment of him there than the skill and tenacity with which he executed his duties — yet he
orchestrated United's victory with such flair, sound judgment and discipline to intimate that this
could be an Indian summer rather than a glorious swan song.
Unless you are a fan of the club it has been easy during their period of Premier League dominance
to find grounds to object to almost all of their players — for reasons of behaviour or attitude or
just simply good old spite — but Giggs is the exception, the one United player it has always been
difficult to dislike, largely because he has so much to boast about yet seems to have such little
inclination to do so. Yes, he attacks with a swagger in his step, but unlike other players who are
so conspicuously secure in their own ability that it seems safe to assume that they are in love with
themselves, Giggs never appears arrogant.
His manager memorably said on seeing the 14-year-old winger in his trial that "he looked as
relaxed and natural on the park as a dog chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind". Indeed his
precocity and potential was so palpable to Sir Alex Ferguson that he wrote: "A gold miner who has
searched every part of the river or mountain and then suddenly finds himself staring at a nugget
could not feel more exhilaration than I felt watching Giggs that day."
In the seasons immediately after he made his debut in 1991 you could see what Ferguson meant.
He was so gracefully lithe and quick that it brought Don Revie's description of Eddie Gray to my
mind: "When he plays on snow he doesn't leave any footprints." His pace, control and crossing
were extraordinary but what really stood out was that Elvis-like abnormally flexible pelvis that
bestowed him with the ability to swerve and swivel at full pelt and gave a hint of how Eddie
"Snakehips" Colman must have earned his nickname.
Back in the early 90s, before footballers had become Beckhamised and turned into celebrities with
bodyguards, it was quite common to see them out and about in town. When I lived in Manchester
at the beginning of the decade you would often see Giggs, Paul Ince, Lee Sharpe and Roy Keane
in boozers such as JW Johnson's and Cheerleaders after midweek games. They never slummed it
quite like City players who could often be spotted at the city centre's most notorious pick-up joint,
but they were happy enough to drink in ordinary bars and did not sequester themselves in VIP
lounges or private clubs. Giggs, having been virtually gagged by his manager for the first three
years of his career, had by that time emerged as the Premier League's poster boy, endorsing
Citroën cars ("the best corner takers in the world") and Reebok trainers. But despite his wealth
and famous girlfriend, Dani Behr, he still seemed remarkably grounded.
Those were his peak years as a left-winger when the prospect of his rapid gambolling runs gave
right-backs pre-match palpitations, a phase which culminated in that stunning solo goal against
Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay. Before a series of hamstring injuries curtailed his
ability to run at full throttle, his gifts were celebrated in two terrace songs, the Robin Hood theme
and Giggs Will Tear You Apart Again, but in recent years he seems to have been taken for
granted, the familiar piece of furniture around Old Trafford that was never quite as loved as an
Eric Cantona or a Keane.
A few years ago he said that he would like his career to develop as John Barnes's did, from flying
speed merchant to cultured central midfielder and belatedly, it seems, he might be fulfilling one
last ambition. After winning the treble in 1999, Ferguson looked back at the day he signed Giggs
and said: "I can honestly say that whatever United have paid me in my years at Old Trafford was
justified at a stroke by securing Ryan." To United's great good fortune, it has been the gift that
has kept on giving.
1999 年足总杯半决赛上，吉格斯攻入阿森纳球门的著名进球，这或许是他身着曼联球衣最光辉的一刻。 图片：
人惊艳的表现让我们看到年轻时的他，看到一种真正浪漫而又刺激的足球，看到他为何能在过去 18 年间一直稳居
他的教练在回忆测试时看到的那个 14 岁的边锋时说，“他在球场上看起来很放松很自然，就像荒野中追逐锡箔片
从他 1991 年首演之后的各个赛季的表现，你会明白弗格森所言不虚。他是如此地优雅轻盈，让我不得不想起
Don Revie 对艾迪·格雷（Eddie Gray）的描述：“在雪上踢球，他不会留下任何痕迹。”他的节奏、控制和交叉
盘带都十分出众，但真正使他脱颖而出的是那 Elvis 式的柔韧骨盆——使他能够在疾速奔跑时变向和转身，这也暗
示着艾迪·“蛇臀”·科尔曼（Eddie "Snakehips" Colman）的绰号是实至名归。
追溯到上个世纪 90 年代早期，在球员们变得“贝克汉姆化”、成为保镖环绕的名流之前，可以经常在户外看到他
们。那个十年刚开始时，我住在曼彻斯特，可以经常在酒馆——如 JW Johnson's，Cheerleaders 等——里看到
隔绝到 VIP 室或私人俱乐部中。吉格斯，在他职业生涯的前三年实际上是被主帅约束着言论，当时他已经成为英
Dani Behr 也名声在外，他仍然是非常地脚踏实地。
的顶峰是在 1999 年的足总杯半决赛重赛，他用一个惊世骇俗的单骑闯关攻破阿森纳大门。在一系列跟腱伤势限
制了他的全速奔跑之前，他的天赋在两首球场歌曲里被广为传颂，Robin Hood theme（罗宾汉调）和 Giggs
Will Tear You Apart Again（吉格斯将再次让你心碎）。但近年来，他似乎已经被想当然地当作老特拉福德的一