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  1. 1. Be grateful for Giggs, a gift that keeps on giving Ryan Giggs' thrilling performance against Chelsea showed he still has plenty to offer before retiring 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
  2. 2. 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. 几年前他曾说,希望未来的职业发展像约翰·巴恩斯(John Barnes)一样,从飞速奔跑边路分子转变成优雅的 中场核心。姗姗来迟,看起来他还真可能实现这最后的雄心。1999 年赢得三冠王后,弗格森回想起当初签下吉格 斯的时候,说道:“我可以诚实地说,只要想到(是我)一举签来了瑞恩,无论曼联为我在老特拉福德的这些年支 付多少都是合情合理的。”曼联的这一巨大财富,他的天才还将继续为球迷们奉献精彩。 感谢吉格斯,不老的传奇 对阵切尔西,瑞恩·吉格斯用令人震撼的表现向世人宣告:退休之前,他还要奉献更多。 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: Shaun Botterill/全体育图片社(Allsport) 英国足球史上获得奖章最多的球员已经给人以退居二线的印象,从上场比赛的强度来看,他已经接近朴智星或脚 法花里胡哨还特爱卖弄的纳尼。但就在开始思考即将到来的退休之后一周,吉格斯就在对切尔西的比赛中,用令 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 曼联众多边路球员核心地位的原因。 这场比赛,首发的吉格斯司职他并不习惯的中场位置。诚然,切尔西踢得沉闷而又无精打采,但吉格斯在对抗中 的表现绝对是个惊喜——更多地体现在弗爵爷对他的大胆部署,而非仅仅是他恪尽职守时的技巧和坚韧不拔—— 而他用天赋、绝佳的判断力和纪律性完美地策划了曼联的胜利,同时也暗示:这是愉快的小阳春,而非壮丽的绝 唱。 除非你是曼联的球迷,不然,要在红魔统治英超的时代里找出反感其几乎所有队员的依据实在太简单了——原因 或者是行为,或者是态度,或者干脆就是古老的怨恨——但吉格斯是个例外。你总是很难去讨厌他,最大原因便 是他实在有太多东西可以夸耀,但他似乎从来就没有这种倾向。是的,他进攻时的脚法是够狂妄自大的,但不像 其他的球员,他们对自己的个人能力是如此地有把握,以至于可以将此推断为自恋。吉格斯从不会表现出傲慢。
  3. 3. 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 的小狗一样”。事实上,他的早熟和潜力在弗格森爵士眼里是如此的明显,爵士写道:“淘金者搜索了河流或山脉 每个部分之后,突然发现面前就是一块金子,那种欢愉不会比我那天看到吉格斯的情景还多。” 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 刚刚进行完周中比赛的吉格斯、保罗·因斯、李·夏普和罗伊·基恩。他们从没有堕落到像某些曼城球员一样,会 经常在市中心最臭名昭著的风月场所被抓个正着。相反,他们很乐于在普通的酒吧里喝上几杯,而且不是把自己 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 超联赛的模范人物,代言了雪铁龙汽车(“世界上最擅长转弯的汽车”)和锐步训练鞋。尽管财富很多,女朋友 Dani Behr 也名声在外,他仍然是非常地脚踏实地。 在他作为左边锋的巅峰岁月,比赛还没开始,那些右后卫们只要想到他快速雀跃的奔跑便会心头发慌。那段时期 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 件熟悉的摆设,永远不会像恩里克·坎通纳或基恩一样被喜爱。