Ryan Giggs has not been tearing teams apart lately but his performance against West Ham in the FA Cup third round replay suggests that he is still capable of rolling back the years and making an effective contribution. It is for performances like this that Sir Alex Ferguson offers him one-year contracts for the last few campaigns. But does it make sense to carry this on for another year?
Giggs had a dreadful start to the season, especially at the heart of midfield at Anfield and against Spurs at home. Following these two matches, he hasn’t featured in the ‘big games’ and probably, rightly so. With increased importance being given to ball possession and retention, a pressing game in the middle will find Giggs punching way above his weight, and failing.
However, recent performances have brought joy to many fans, especially when used as a wide player. Despite lacking pace, playing wide suits him better in the modern game where one tends to find more space in the wide areas and can use the fresh legs to good effect when coming on as a substitute. He is still capable of a good delivery into the box, or of taking out defences with a clever ball akin the pass for Robin Van Persie’s equaliser that earned them the replay against West Ham in the FA Cup. Ferguson is more aware of Giggs’s capabilities and is now using him more sparingly – in cup fixtures and league matches where rotation is essential.
Given Ferguson’s recent comments in the press post the West Ham match, it won’t be surprising if he indeed offers Giggs another one-year contract. The ideal option would be for United to invest in a winger and in midfield so that Giggs still doesn’t have to be relied upon. Post retirement, he can still be part of the coaching team and continue to influence the team with his experience.
For a majority of United fans, Giggs’s achievements and legendary status implies that, in their eyes, he is above all criticism and flak received. However, for an increasing number of fans, he is turning out to be the finished article. Both Ferguson and Giggs need to ensure that the player’s role within the squad is used cleverly in these circumstances such that his legend remains intact and that he is remembered for all the great achievements in years gone by rather than shortcomings on the pitch in the twilight years of his playing career.