In Part One of our special feature on United stalwart Ryan Giggs’ Red Devils’ tenure, we examined the football landscape when Giggs made his Man U bow twenty years ago. More telling perhaps is a birds-eye view of how the world was at that time.
In those twenty years - 7305 days - he’s seen a lot:
Two weeks before that substitute’s turn against Everton, US-led troops invaded Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. The first Gulf War was over in 100 hours as President George Bush chose to ignore advice from several senior advisors; the Welshman then saw history repeat twelve years later. Since that first war, Giggs has outstayed three US Presidents: Bush, Bill Clinton and Bush Jr. The Prime Minister of England was also a newbie – John Major, who had ended eleven years of Thatcherdom in the same month Giggs turned professional, November 1990. Wales’ favourite son has seen off four British PMs and five Australian.
Even more astonishingly the USSR was still a viable (barely) entity when Giggs’ debut came. Only five-and-a-bit months later in August, the country broke up after a failed military coup. The Ukraine and Belarus were first out the Union’s door; even United’s recent European Super Cup opponents changed their name from Zenit Leningrad to Zenit St Petersburg as their home city reverted to its original name after seventy-odd years of communist rule.
Perhaps the incident with the most staying power from March 1991 followed the cosmic ripples emanating from Giggs’ debut; it occurred the following day in Los Angeles as LAPD officers were filmed beating black motorist Rodney King which caused communal uproar and several high-profile damages claims. Magic Johnson also made the headlines for admitting in November that he was HIV positive. If you wanted to play FIFA or Football Manager, you’d have to do it on the state-of-the-art Super Nintendo Entertainment System. And the all time clue to let you know how far back in time we’ve traveled: Mike Tyson, the man for whom the Tyson Zone is named, was arrested for the first time, charged with raping a Miss America contestant.
Other debutants that year included TV’s Home Improvement, movies Silence of the Lambs and Thelma and Louise; the music world rocked to Pearl Jam’s Ten, U2’s Achtung Baby, Metallica’s eponymous release and the last of Michael Jackson’s truly great albums, Dangerous. The world mourned the passing of Michael Landon, Gene Roddenberry, Stan Getz, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Frank Capra, Freddie Mercury, Doctor Seuss and Miles Davis.
Real Madrid starlet Sergio Canales was born only six weeks before Giggs first turned out for the Red Devils and it’s an amusing thought that he was wearing (admittedly awful 1991-style) United kits before Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda were born – shortly after Germany’s 1990 World Cup win. He’s been a professional for over twenty years, seen five FIFA World Cups in that time and not played at any of them, perhaps the greatest injustice he’s ever been dealt Eleven of his first-team comrades this year were three years of age or less.
Ryan Giggs has outlasted all but Sir Alex during his time at United. His success and longevity due mostly to his special blend of skill, pace, resistance to injury and focused evolution. As his pace has declined he’s moved from the flanks into the centre of the park and has, for the past three-plus seasons, defined the role of “midfield schemer”. More than anything else, you get the feeling Giggs feels privileged to be playing football this late in his career, especially for a club that means so much to him.
Congratulations, Ryan Giggs. United, and football, are glad that you’re going around for season twenty-one next term. We hope also that there’s a twenty-second.