As the Welshman celebrates his 40th birthday, his continuous ability to reinvent himself and stay at the top of his game is a unique trait one can only marvel at
If football were to have its own superhero, his name would be Ryan Giggs.
Giggs might not have any real superpowers, but one might be forgiven for thinking that he is immune to the ravages of Time - he just keeps going and going on.
With 953 appearances for Manchester United spanning over 22 years and a whopping 33 trophies under his belt, he is the most decorated player in English football history. Without doubt, Giggs is a living legend.
Think about it. Queen’s legendary vocalist Freddie Mercury was still alive when Giggs made his debut in March 1991. Since then, the Welsh wizard has outlasted almost all the players who he started off playing football with, scoring at least one league goal every season while he’s at it.
In fact, he has even outlasted the most successful British football manager in history - Sir Alex Ferguson, who gave him his debut.
Celebrating his 40th birthday whilst still plying his trade at one of the biggest clubs in the world should be reason enough for anyone to pay tribute to his longevity and achievements over the years.
But rather than salute his past glories or his best moments in the game, Giggs gave us all a timely reminder of his talent and ability against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday evening with a performance to marvel at.
Sitting just above the defense, he ran the show alongside Phil Jones as Manchester United thumped a sorry Leverkusen 5-0 to notch their biggest Champions League win away from home in 56 years. Giggs even played a glorious pass to Nani for United’s fifth goal in the 88th minute - no tiring legs there.
“Some people have mentioned his age,” manager David Moyes said after the game.
“But you cannot mention anything about his footballing ability. He’s an unbelievable footballer and is even getting better. He’s a wonderful footballer and I’m lucky to be working with him.”
So much praise has been said about Giggs that sometimes, we even forget that he is human.
Sure, we've seen the likes of legends such as Paolo Maldini, Peter Shilton, David Seaman and Javier Zanetti who have all played over 1,000 matches for their respective clubs and countries.
But with all due respect, Seaman and Shilton were goalkeepers, a position that requires quick reflexes and agility more than physical fitness, while Maldini and Zanetti were defenders who are famed for their ability to read the game more than anything else.
Giggs, on the other hand, has been tormeting opposition defences since he first made his debut against Everton as a substitute. He terrorised fullbacks with his pace and skill when he was playing on the wings back in his younger days. Even without his pace today, he is still full of energy as he pulls the strings in the middle of the park, running all over the pitch. At his age, that is nothing short of remarkable.
What really sets Giggs apart from these other household names is his willingness to excel at reinventing himself, which is the secret to his longevity.
Other players will struggle to function playing in a position they are unfamiliar with. But Giggs’s desire to adapt and stay in the game by playing in completely new positions - and be just as effective to the team at while doing so - is an example of his ability to develop his game to the team's benefit.
While other players would have given up due to prolonged injury problems, Giggs’s persistence in trying new training methods such as incorporating yoga into his training regime has allowed him to keep himself in optimal condition even as he reaches the fifth decade of his life.
Needless to say, Giggs’ playing time has been reduced over the years. Still, he has made over 30 appearances in each of the past four seasons, and odds are he will probably reach those figures again after already playing on 12 occasions so far this season. Some players younger than him won't.
In any case, his role in the club remains just as, if not more, significant than ever before. He has been under Ferguson’s tutelage the longest and knows the blueprints of the club better than anyone else. Giggs is an important figure not only to the players but to the new management as well, to keep the hunger and winning habit going.
The manner in which Giggs continually reinvents himself to stay on top of the game is something that we can only look at in awe.
Just like how a superhero is renowned for the special ability that only he has, it is unlikely that we will ever come across another player as unique as Ryan Giggs again.