Sir Alex Ferguson has said that Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are the best players he has had at Manchester United in his time as manager. Does this stand up to scrutiny?
There are several players who may have a justifiable claim to the title. Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson, Gary Neville, Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney, Christiano Ronaldo?
In Fergies time as manager Manchester United have won eighteen major trophies and within each of those teams there have been great players. So why does Sir Alex pick these two out as the very best?
Ryan Giggs, now 34 years old, made his debut for Manchester United back in 1991. He quickly became a superstar but was shielded from the media and intrusion normally reserved for young players. Alex Ferguson could see that the player was special, and he knew he had to do all he could to protect him.
Seventeen years later, although not an automatic choice in all games, Giggs is still an integral part of the team. In the big games, he is still one of the first names Fergie writes down on the Manchester United team sheet.
Starting his career as a flying winger, Giggs has gone through many changes to his style as he has got older and matured as a player. He has fulfilled effective roles for the team on the wing, up front and in the centre of midfield. As his pace has declined, so he has improved his passing, awareness, and end product.
So far, Giggs has started 518 league games for United scoring 100 goals. This is a fine record for essentially a midfield player. The even more impressive statistic is that he is credited with 228 assists during that time, meaning that he has scored or made a goal every 1.6 league games. In total he has started 731 games and is credited with 144 goals and 284 assists.
In recognition of his services to football and the exemplary way he has conducted himself through his long career, Giggs was awarded the OBE in 2007. With the probability of more to come, Giggs has already amassed one champions league, nine league, four FA Cup and two league cup medals.
Paul Scholes, now 33 years old, forced his way into the first team at United in 1994. He has spent most of his career as a midfield player but has spent some time playing off a front man. His close control, awareness, and eye for a pass have helped him to remain a top player to this day.
He has scored 96 goals for Manchester United in 381 games. This return is as good as any other top midfield players. He scored 14 goals for England in his 66 caps, and has been sorely missed by the national side since his retirement from international football in 2004.
Eric Harrison, the youth coach at United who has seen all the greats pass through his hands is quoted as saying that Scholes is the best player he has ever coached. He points out that Scholes is always aware of where he is and what is around him. He said that before Scholes receives the ball anywhere on the pitch, he always looks left and right before taking control. I’ve watched him, and he still does it. It explains why he always turns or passes the right way when he gets possession.
Scholes has one champions league, seven League, three FA Cup and one League cup medal.
So there is no denying that Giggs and Scholes are great players and will go down in Old Trafford history as two of the best. Sir Alex has proved himself to be a pretty good judge and who am I to argue with him? With 28 medals, 1112 appearances and 240 goals between them, they are quite justified in receiving the acclaim their manager has given them.
Giggs and Scholes are fine examples of how to play the game, how to look after yourself and how to conduct yourself. They have had wonderful careers and there is no doubt much more to come.