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Such a great Journey

Ryan Giggs will always be remembered as an all-time British great and one of Manchester United’s finest ever players. He made a record 963 appearances for United and the 34 trophies he won at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and two Champions Leagues, made him English football’s most decorated player.
From floppy-haired teenage pin-up to greying elder statesman, his 23-year playing career neatly coincided with the most successful period in United’s history and made him a household name around the world. ‘I have cried twice in my life watching a football player. The first one was Maradona, and the second was Ryan Giggs,’ former Italy great Alessandro Del Piero said once.
Born Ryan Joseph Wilson in Cardiff on November 29, 1973, the young Giggs spent his early years in Wales before relocating to Salford, Greater Manchester at the age of six due to his father’s rugby league career. While playing for local team Deans, Giggs was spotted by a United scout and although he had signed up with Manchester City’s School of Excellence, United manager Alex Ferguson was quick to pounce. ‘I remember the first time I saw Giggs. He was 13 and he floated across the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind,’ said Ferguson, who turned up at Giggs’s house on his 14th birthday with schoolboy forms for him to sign.
Twisted Blood
Following his parents’ divorce, Giggs adopted his mother’s surname and it was with that name on the back of his shirt that he was to become an international sporting icon. Giggs was the first member of United’s feted ‘Class of ‘92’ youth team to infiltrate the senior squad, setting an example that David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers would go on to emulate.
A wiry, jet-heeled left-winger, Giggs’s weaving runs made him one of the stars of Ferguson’s first great United team and moved teammate Gary Pallister to comment that he gave his opponents ‘twisted blood’. Meanwhile, Giggs’s brooding good looks made him a hit with teenage girls. The combination prompted comparisons with George Best, the fast-living United superstar of the 1960s and early 1970s, who wryly opined: ‘Maybe one day people will say I was another Ryan Giggs.’ Giggs scored his most famous goal against Arsenal in 1999, a show-stopping solo strike in an FA Cup semifinal replay, and it provided the inspiration for an unprecedented treble of league, cup and Champions League honours.
1,000 professional games
He had to wait nine years to get his hands on the Champions League trophy again, scoring what proved to be the decisive penalty in a shootout against Chelsea in Moscow in 2008, and by then he was a very different player.No longer the full-back’s nightmare of his youth, Giggs had reinvented himself as a deep-lying midfield organiser, whose effortless technique enabled him to outwit players almost half his age.
He played in two more Champions League finals in 2009 and 2011, losing on both occasions to Barcelona, but the trophies and milestones continued to stack up. In 2009 he was elected the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year, in 2011 he was voted United’s greatest player by the club’s fans, and in March 2013 he played his 1,000th professional game.
‘You think maybe a defender or goalkeeper could play on, but a winger, who has played from the age of 16, 17 to the age of 40 and has adapted his game and is still looking like he can beat a player, it is brilliant,’ said former teammate Gary Neville. Although he captained Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics, Giggs never graced a major international tournament with Wales, but despite being coveted by a succession of England managers, he had no regrets. ‘I’d rather go through my career without qualifying for a major championship than play for a country where I wasn’t born or which my parents didn’t have anything to do with,’ he once said.
In addition to the many honours Giggs has received within football, he was appointed an OBE in the Queen’s 2007 ‘birthday honours list’ for his services to English football. He was named as BBC sports personality of the year in 2009. In January 2011, Giggs was named Manchester United’s greatest ever player by a worldwide poll conducted by United’s official magazine and website. In October the same year, Giggs was honoured with the 2011 Golden Foot award.
Giggs, who retired from international football in 2007, would ultimately outlast even Ferguson at United, before taking on a new role as player-coach under David Moyes last year. Moyes’s premature sacking saw Giggs promoted to interim manager and it is in the dug-out, as assistant to newly-appointed United boss Louis van Gaal, that the future of his extraordinary career now lies.
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