This past weekend Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs was awarded an OBE in the queens birthday honours list, while ex United team mate David Beckham packed his bags for America with a La Liga winners medal finally in his possession. While Giggs seems to keep going, adapting his game to his increasing years, and Beckham sets off on another media frenzy in yet another country, trying to bring sexy back to the MSL, can it be said that David Beckham has allowed Ryan Giggs to become the legend he is now?
When Giggs made his debut at 17 years old in, 1991 against Everton, few could have imagined that over 700 games later, and 9 league titles, he’d still be around, hoping to go past Sir Bobby Charltons record for most appearances for United in the near future. Yet while there are many reasons for Giggs longevity at the very highest level, from his fitness, his desire, his character, the manager, his opting out of many Wales friendly matches and his family lifestyle, perhaps it was the rise of David Beckham that played a significant role in allowing Giggs to enjoy the success he has attained and more to come.
When David Beckham announced himself to the world, with his goal from the half way line against Wimbledon on the opening day of the ’96/97 season, a new pin up boy of world football had arrived. While Giggs had been shielded from the press in the formative years of his United career by Sir Alex, there was bound to be a time where it became to much for him, the constant remarks and comparisons to George Best. Beckhams super star status, being the next bright thing in British football, his good looks, dating a Spice Girl, his life being tabloid fodder, all helped to take the pressure away from Giggs. The camera’s now had a new target – one that seemed more willing. As Becks was hounded, and as his star rose, Giggs quietly went about his life and his football. Beckham grow and grow over the years to become the England captain, the most marketed player in football, and the owner of the best right foot in the game. Then he left for Madrid. The Beckham media frenzy followed him to Spain, and wherever else he ventured, and back home in Manchester the local press had a new pin up – Christiano Ronaldo.
While the camera’s were focused elsewhere Giggs carried on putting in the performances and consistency that has led to him being regarded by many as the best player to have played in the Premiership, something he he has done for every year of his career. He is the most decorated player in the game, with 9 league championship medals, 4 FA Cup winners medals, 2 League Cup winners medals, a Champions League winners medal, as well as medals for winning the European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. He is approaching the record for most appearances by a United player, has scored the fastest goal by a United player, after 15 seconds against Southampton in 1995, along with Gary Speed is the only player to have scored in every season of the Premier League, is the first player in Champions League history to have scored in 12 successive seasons, his goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi final replay of ’99 was voted greatest ever FA Cup goal, Giggs has been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, in 1995, the Premiership Team of the Decade, in 2003, as well as the FA Cup Team of the Century. He has also twice won the Premier League young player of the year award, in both 1992 and 1993. Giggs is also the only United player to have played in all 9 League winning teams and also the only United player to have played in both League Cup winning teams.
There is every reason to believe that Giggs would have still completed his illustrious list of honours without the help of Beckham taking away the media focus, but it would have been a real test, one that no player has yet come through, including Best and Beckham himself. By taking away a bit of the outside interference and allowing Giggs to get on with the football in his life, Beckham has played a role in ensuring that Ryan Giggs will go down as Manchester Uniteds greatest ever player.