The Giggs Story: 2011 to 2014
Ryan Giggs' illustrious playing career finally came to an end following the end of the 2013/14 season. The concluding three years of this epic tale helped cement his stature in the game but also teed up an exciting new chapter in his life.
While United ended the 2011/12 season empty-handed, the Ryan Giggs story rolled on and on. Even more milestones were passed and the Welshman continued to be a vital cog in the machine although, with the surprising return of Paul Scholes in mid-season, he did not have the term ‘elder statesman’ all to himself. Before that, Ryan’s goal against Benfica in the Champions League had seen the then-37-year-old break his own record as the competition’s oldest scorer. Although used more sparingly, the veteran was good enough to start in big games like the Manchester derby in the FA Cup when Scholes came out of retirement. Ryan marked his 900th United appearance in style, grabbing a late winner at Norwich in a man-of-the-match performance. Indeed the displays of Giggs and Scholes (combined age: 75) at Carrow Road prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to tell MUTV they were, "the best players this club has ever had". Another special moment in the veteran’s storied career came during the London Olympics when he led out Great Britain's football team, appropriately enough at his beloved Old Trafford. He scored in the second match, against UAE, and although Team GB bowed out in the quarter-finals to Korea Republic, it had still been a great experience. Giggs 2011/12: 22 (11) games, 4 goals.
The records continued to tumble in the 2012/13 campaign, with Giggs winning yet another Premier League winners’ medal - his 13th, unlucky for his long-suffering opponents. In a single-minded pursuit of a 20th title, United brushed off all challenges, and Ryan’s opening goal in a 2-0 win over Everton in February put the Reds 12 points clear at the top. It also ensured he had scored in 23 consecutive league campaigns. While he continued to defy the years, United defied the critics who had questioned the squad's quality by finishing with 11 more points than local rivals Manchester City. With the championship in the bag, Sir Alex Ferguson called time on his Old Trafford reign after 26 years - astonishingly 22 of these had featured Ryan Giggs as a first-team player. Surely not even the managerial genius could have predicted that the 17-year-old Welsh winger he pitched into his team in March 1991 would still be going strong over two decades later. Giggs 2012/13: 18 (14) games, 5 goals.
The curtain finally came down on Giggs' playing career at the end of the 2013/14 season, but not, perhaps, in the way he or many observers would have imagined. Appointed player-coach by Sir Alex's successor David Moyes, he was still a key member of the squad as he proved by turning in an influential performance from central midfield in the 5-0 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen in November two days before his 40th birthday. Ryan proved to be the man to turn to when the chips were down in Europe yet again when a two-goal deficit was overturned at Old Trafford against Olympiacos. He pulled the strings to seal passage to yet another Champions League quarter-final, but when the club parted company with Moyes soon after, it called on the most decorated player in its history to guide the team through to the end of a difficult season. The last playing hurrah was a 20-minute cameo against Hull City, but aside from his own display, which included a near-miss from a brilliant free-kick, Giggs’ goodbye was marked by his willingness to hand debuts to teenagers James Wilson and Tom Lawrence. Having been given the chance at a young age himself, it seemed apt that he should pass the torch on to a new generation at the end of a playing career like no other. Giggs 2013/14: 15 (7) games, 0 goals.
Source: By Tim Oscroft, ManUtd.com