Ryan Giggs tells brilliant story about brutal Manchester United youth team
Ryan Giggs has given a revealing insight into the will-to-win and drive to improve standards that characterised the Manchester United academy when he emerged with the Class of '92.
The Wales winger came through with Gary and Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and David Beckham but he's revealed just how competitive it used to get when they were trying to make their way in the game.
Giggs went on to become United's record appearance holder, playing 963 games for the club, and he put a fierce desire to win down as one of the key attributes in his progress, detailing training ground games with his young teammates that would go right to the edge of what was acceptable.
"When I was growing up in the youth team literally I would do anything to win a five-a-side game, against my best friends in Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, we'd be kicking each other and if you lost it would be with you for the rest of the day and this is the day before the game, an eight-minute, nine-minute five-a-side game," Giggs told beIN SPORTS.
"Whereas in my experience now you see players coming off and they've just lost a small-sided game and they're laughing and joking and I'm like 'you've just lot a game'. Even if it doesn't mean anything, it's that winning mentality and doing anything you can to win.
"In my youth team coach in Eric Harrison I can't remember him giving free-kicks. He would just let you get on with it, you don't want injuries but he wanted that will to win and he wanted that feeling you'd take into the Saturday.
"Maybe that's taken away from the players a little bit now, but you have to find that winning mentality from within somehow. Sir Alex was the master of mind games and psychology."
Giggs recalled a game under Harrison when United's talented kids faced a team of seniors from Merseyside and the promising winger was put to the test by his manager.
"I played in a youth team game, I think I was 15, we were playing against Marine who were a side from Liverpool and they were men, and our goalkeeper just kept hitting the ball on top of the centre half, I kept going up for headers and there was a Scouser heading the back of my head," Giggs said.
"I said to the goalkeeper 'do something different', but he said Eric's told me to keep kicking it on top of your head. My manager is testing me to see how I handle it. You were constantly being tested, you come through that and the next game you're playing someone of the same size or same age and it's nothing compared to what you had to go through the week before.
"Because of what you had to do become a footballer back then, you had to fight for it, you had to be taken out of your comfort zone nearly every week, whereas these days you're probably not of your comfort zone as much.
"That's culture, for good sometimes, the facilities are so much better, you play footballer in great surroundings, but actually are you learning problem solving as much as we did when we were younger? Probably not."