How do you rank tangible moments of not just quality but game-changing quality? How can you measure the significance of one Giggs goal over another or assess the influence he exerted in one match compared to another? It’s an impossible task.
What we’ve endeavored to do instead is find the examples that best represent Giggs’ ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. These five moments, we believe, best summarize the immense influence the one-club man has had on Manchester United and seek to function as the tip of the Giggs iceberg, offering a visual encapsulation of the wonders you’ll find if you dip beneath the surface. If nothing else the following clips offer another chance to bask in the magnificence of the Welsh maverick as he tears opposition defences apart.
5) Tottenham Hotspur 1 MANCHESTER UNITED 1, 19th September 1992
The Goal: Just witness how far away Giggs is from the ball when Austin miscontrols it; the mistake doesn’t deserve such brutal punishment. The winger capitalizes on the lapse in a nanosecond, retrieving the ball, bamboozling the covering Jason Cundy before striding past Walker and nonchalantly finishing from a difficult angle. All this at the tender age of 18.
The Significance: The goal is generally credited with announcing a young Ryan Giggs to the world, earning him a reputation for meandering runs and blink-and-you’ll-miss-him pace in the process. This moment perhaps best typifies Giggs’ electric beginnings and the Class of ’92’s rampant domination of the early Premier League era.
4) Wigan Athletic 0-2 MANCHESTER UNITED, 11th May 2008
The Goal: Sixteen years later and now an United veteran, Giggs works some space in the Wigan penalty area and finishes with an understated coolness, clinching United’s 17th League title in fine fashion.
The Significance: If young Giggs was the lungs of his team, marauding past the opposition with frenetic stamina, then old Giggs was the heart of his, controlling the tempo, pumping passes and dictating space. The Welshman, now converted into a deep-lying playmaker role, enjoyed a much vaunted purple patch in his mid-thirties, producing career-best performances and shepherding Fergie’s next generation of superstars into title winners. This goal was a cherry-on-the-cake finish to a resurgent season in which United won their second of three consecutive League titles and Giggs reproved his relevance.
3) Juventus 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 3, 25th February 2003
The Goal: A divine mixture of elegance and industry as Giggs races through the Juve backline and threads the ball (with his right-foot no less) past a motionless Buffon. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, it probably qualifies as the second best goal of the player’s career.
The Significance: The goal may not have come at a particularly pivotal juncture in proceedings with United already 1-0 up and looking comfortable, but it came during a period of mixed form for the winger as for the first time there were rumblings of discontent emanating from the Old Trafford crowd. Giggs, it was suggested, was losing his touch; his head had been turned after a period of intense speculation linking him with Inter Milan and it was beginning to show on the pitch. The typical Giggsian response was to remind United’s fans just what he was capable of. There have been no inferences of disloyalty since.
2) MANCHESTER UNITED 1 Juventus 1, 7th April 1999
Clip available here <http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy9f95_1999-april-7-manchester-united-england-1-juventus-italy-1-champions-league_sport&start=117>
The Goal: Often overlooked but undoubtedly crucial, Giggs’ finish against Juventus is visually the least impressive impressive on the list although it still takes fine positional work and admirable composure for the midfielder to rifle the ball into the roof of the net.
The Significance: United’s Champions League campaign in their Treble-winning season is often reduced to three moments; the two snatch-and-grab goals in the Final and the epic comeback away at Juventus inspired by the heroics of Roy Keane. Rarely mentioned is the home leg in which the Italians held a damaging 1-0 lead for seventy-five minutes of the game until Giggs scrambled a last-minute equalizer.
So what you ask? It was in United’s nature to score last gasp goals and even had they lost, the 3-2 win in the return leg would have been enough to see them through. Except the only reason United scored a third was because Juventus were chasing the game. Giggs’ goal wasn’t just vital mathematically but in terms of squad morale it boosted the Devils, substantiating the belief that this was their year and reinvigorating them in preparation for the return leg and their cup match against Arsenal.
In moments such as this the United legend was written, not just domestically but all across Europe, and Giggs was so often the man with the pen. Ingrained in the brain are a litany of interchangeable images of Giggs forcing his team forward in the dying seconds, instigating one final surge down the left wing with a hidden reserve of energy and, inevitably, forcing a last gasp goal. Look no further than the final against Bayern for another example as Giggs lays the ball on a plate (albeit inadvertently) for Teddy Sheringham to greedily gobble up in the dying seconds. It’s a microcosm of the Ferguson ethos that Giggs has embodied for more than twenty years.
1) MANCHESTER UNITED 2 Arsenal 1, 14th April 1999
The Goal: ‘It’s a rather weary one from Vieira…Giggs…gets past Vieira..past Dixon who comes back it him…it’s a wonderful run from Giggs!…Sensational goal from Ryan Giggs…in the second period of extra time. He’s cut Arsenal to ribbons and the team with ten men go back in front 2-1!’
Martin Tyler’s commentary is etched into this blog’s collective memory. As is everything about that goal. Vieira’s directionless ball, that inexplicable torrent of pace, the debonair weaving that leads to Keown ending up on his backside, that rocket finish into the roof of the net and of course that iconic bare-chested celebration.
The Significance: In the distant future, on the day Ryan Giggs passes away, instead of an epitaph this clip will just be played continuously for weeks on end. The family of Patrick Vieira will complain but no one else will. It’s equisite, superlative, fully deserving of consideration in the same bracket as Maradona vs England or Zidane vs Leverkusen.
And it’s emphatically Giggs. Once again the Welshman performs best when his team’s back is against the wall. Once again (as above against Tottenham and Juve) he capitalizes on a mistake that he has no right to punish with a goal. Once again he reveals hidden depths of resolve and energy he seems to store deep inside him for such occasions.
This was more than just the goal that took Manchester United to the FA Cup final. It was the goal that broke Arsenal, causing The Professor to retreat to his lab and rejig the formula. It was the goal that made that squad (and us) believe indisputably that the impossible was possible, a self-fulfilling prophecy that ignited the players in times of turmoil and drove them to success. It was a goal that gripped you, shook you and reminded you just why you love the beautiful game. You can keep Zlatan’s gravity-defying overhead kicks, Barca’s eye-watering, fifty-pass team goals; we’d take Ryan Giggs running directly at a tired, ageing Arsenal backline any day of the week.