Ryan Giggs has a touch of class off the pitch too says Robbie Savage

16 February 2009 10:58
It says everything about the humility, dignity and pure class of Ryan Giggs that the Manchester United player sought out Savage at Pride Park to tell the vanquished Derby County midfielder: "You played well, keep going.''

Typical Giggs. Nothing about his own starring contribution to the FA Cup tie, a 4-1 win for United. Nothing about his own exceptional career, the two European Cups and 10 titles. Just respect for a fellow pro, a few words of support for an old colleague now dwelling in the Championship.

Modesty personified, Giggs stands as the perfect role model for youngsters striving to make their way in the game. In an age when some callow players become millionaires in their teens, losing their competitive edge and slipping off the rails, Giggs is a paragon of virtues on and off the pitch.

An attacking zephyr, Giggs can resemble a sidewinder snake, zigzagging towards goal, trailing menace. As a human being, a touch of nobility defines him. Football is blessed to have Ryan Joseph Giggs OBE.

More than one Professional Footballers' Association club rep has advised impressionable tyros to look towards Old Trafford and learn from Giggs. The Welshman refuels sensibly, trains hard, rests up, and gives everything on the field. "He lives his life right,'' observed Savage, "and if he's a superstar in his own right, he doesn't have the lifestyle of a superstar, with the adulation and everything. If he'd played for England, that might have been different.''

Asked whether Giggs could have been "bigger than Becks'', Savage replied: "David Beckham is a great player and Giggs is a great player. They're both legends. If he'd played in a World Cup. . . that's the only thing Ryan has missing.''

Maybe the absence of summer football has contributed to the Welshman's durability. Such a thrilling sporting creature should never be measured by stats but the record books do make eye-opening reading. He has scored in 19 consecutive league seasons (in the old First Division and all 17 of its Premier League guises), rattling in 102 goals (including five pre-Premier League) in 478 starts and 75 substitute appearances.

In all competitions (including Charity/Community Shields and World Club Cups), Giggs has scored 147 goals in 687 starts and 101 substitute appearances. "It's a truly phenomenal record and it is hard to see anyone matching his longevity,'' said John Russell, the football statistician and United fan.

It is easy to tell that Giggs has been around a while because his shirt number, 11, equates to traditional positioning, left wing. It is also easy to tell how valued he is by Sir Alex Ferguson because United's manager trusts him in a range of roles. Left wing, central midfield, right wing, centre-forward: Giggs is a one-man variety act.

Just imagine the mood among Savage and his Derby colleagues before kick-off, hopes rising as they digested United's much-changed team-sheet. "When we saw the team, with no striker, we thought we might be in with half a chance,'' smiled Savage.

No Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov or Carlos Tevez. No cutting edge? No chance. Giggs, playing as a central striker, dovetailing sweetly with Cristiano Ronaldo, tore Derby apart. "Ryan was unbelievable,'' Savage added. "When he was a winger, he was incredible. Now he's redefined his role and he's still incredible. He's so hard to pick up. He can play in the middle of park, out wide, up front. Ryan's 35 and every time he plays, he seems to get man of the match. He's a credit to himself and to the game and, for me, he's the player of the year.''

Giggs may well prove to be the PFA Player of the Year; United's ageless attacker will inevitably stir admiration among his peers and clubs reps often cast dressing-room votes en bloc. The writers' Footballer of the Year honours may see a broader race with Ashley Young and Nemanja Vidic genuine rivals. Over the season to date, rather than the last month, Young and Vidic must be just ahead of Giggs but this thoroughbred is an out-and-out stayer.

Source: Telegraph