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Manchester United 2012-13 player review: Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs exceeded all expectations this season.

Alex Livesey

The Busby Babe continues with the tenth installment of our 2012-13 Manchester United player reviews. Next up is the legendary Ryan Giggs.

* Manchester United 2012-13 season review

I'm going to be dividing each of the player reviews into three categories: 'what was expected' will be a brief and general explanation of what the expectations were for the player prior to the season's start, 'what we got' will typically be the section with the most depth as this will be the heart of the review, and 'what's next?' will be an examination of the player's future at United.

What was expected

For the run-in of the 2010-11 season, Ryan Giggs reinvented himself as a central-midfielder and he became the first-choice partner for Michael Carrick in the center of the park on the way to United's 19th league title and the UEFA Champions League final. The two technical midfielders were generally protected by the energetic Park Ji-sung on the left of midfield -- while the Korean also interchanged with the Welshman -- and by a then industrious Wayne Rooney in the No.10 role. However, Giggsy's form dipped last season and at times, he was simply erratic with his adventurous passing from a deep-lying central-midfield role. Some even said he was a liability. There were concerns that football at the highest level was now too much for the then 38-year-old. The legend, though, had signed on for another year.

Because of Giggs' dip in form last season, and because he'd be turning 39-years-old this campaign, expectations were relatively low for him. The hope was that he'd provide an attacking spark off the bench at times and that he could also be a decent squad player to rotate in when necessary -- and, of course, United fans were hoping to see him extend his streak of scoring in every single season of the Premier League's existence. None of us, though, wanted to see the legend struggle because he had stayed on one year too long.

What we got

Ryan Joseph Giggs gave us everything we could have reasonably asked from him this season -- and then some. The pinnacle of it was his splendid man of the match performance against Real Madrid at the Theatre of Dreams (as a right-winger!). The 39-year-old was arguably the best player on the Old Trafford pitch that night -- and this was on a pitch that contained Cristiano Ronaldo at the absolute peak of his all-time great powers.


GS (sub)



Avg P

Pass %

FT %



C %


LB %






12 (10)
















3 (0)















* GS: games started (substituted appearances),G = goals scored, A = assists, Avg P = average passes per game, Pass % = passing accuracy percentage, FT % = final third passing accuracy percentage, KP = chances created per game, C = successful crosses per game, C% = accurate cross percentage, LB = accurate long balls per game, LB % = long ball accuracy rate,, TB = successful through balls per game, DRB = successful dribbles per game, TKL = tackles per game, INT = interceptions per game

It was a healthy relationship between Giggs and United this season: the club didn't require him to be a key player, nonetheless, he still provided key moments like this -- his brilliant cross-field pass for Robin van Persie's stoppage-time equaliser at Upton Park that forced a FA Cup replay:


via: Beautifully Red

Giggs, to an extent, was a utility player. According to, Giggs made 15 combined Premier League and Champions League starts -- seven of those were as a central-midfielder, seven were as a left-winger, and one was as a right-winger in the previously mentioned Madrid tie. He also was a substitute 12 times in those two competitions.

Generally, if Giggs was picked in central-midfield alongside Carrick, it was against sides that Sir Alex Ferguson probably anticipated to dominate possession against. Therefore, if the opposition decided to defend deep and in a compact shape, the gaffer likely wanted Giggs' incision as a can-opener against tightly-packed sides. There were times, though, where the Welshman was tasked with a starting role in the engine room against daunting opponents and many supporters wondered where the steel would come from. Even though Carrick and Giggs are both very good distributors of the ball, they no longer had the industry of a younger Rooney nor anyone of the ilk of Park screening for them.

Giggs' most important role as a central-midfielder was actually when he came off the bench. If United were in need of a goal, he often would move into the center of the park and try to play balls in behind the opposition's backline. Or he would drift left so that he could pick out a cross from the area of the pitch where he's so long created chances from. In the opposite scenario, meaning when United needed to calmly see out a result, his experience and passing ability was also useful to slow the tempo and kill the game. This season more than the previous two, he knew when to rein in the adventurous passes from deep when United were in the lead.

The Welshman was also used as an attacking substitute on the wing. When opponents were parking the proverbial bus in an attempt to see out a result against United, Giggs was often brought on to the left wing so that he could create chances in the narrowest of spaces. His waning pace wasn't necessary in these situations because he didn't have space to surge into -- though he can still cut up and skip past defenders in tight areas -- and instead, his craft and guile was. Quickness of thought and his genius left-boot is all that was asked of him.

As the season wore on, it became increasingly clear that none of United's first three preferred wingers -- Antonio Valencia, Nani, and Ashley Young -- were going to sort themselves out from their funks. Eventually, it was quite clear that a 39-year-old was the club's best natural winger -- this was amusing and enjoyable to an extent because it was the legendary Giggs, but it was also disappointing because a man about enter his fifth decade in life was superior to three men in the physical prime of their lives.

The joint most disappointing points of the season for Wayne Rooney was arguably the two Real Madrid ties. In the first-leg at the Bernabeu, the Englishman failed to execute an important tactical role on the right-wing and the result was United being completely overrun by Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao on that side of the pitch for much of the match. If it wasn't for Phil Jones brilliantly providing inside cover from a central-midfield position, United would not have been able to escape that tie with a well-earned 1-1 draw. For the return leg though, Giggs was tasked with a similar tactical role to Rooney's on the right-wing. The 39-year-old was incredible with his discipline and intelligence and unlike the 27-year-old, he actually came through-- and like Rooney, it was also a relatively unfamiliar position for him.

Overall, it was a successful season for Giggs and if anything, he exceeded all expectations.

Giggs 13. Gerrard 0.

What's next?

Giggs has decided to return for another season, one in which he'll turn 40-years-old - and the hopes will generally be the same as they were heading into this season: that he hasn't stayed on one year too long and that he can be a solid squad player again. It'll also be the first time that he hasn't had Fergie around as boss so hopefully he can help bridge the managerial transition to David Moyes. With Fergie and Paul Scholes retired, Giggs' leadership next season might be as important as it ever has been.