Will Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes prove to be Manchester United's greatest ever players?


A fierce combination on the field, Giggs and Scholes should be remembered as two of United's greatest.

by Gregory Wakeman in History

Talented and united
Talented and united

Many football luminaries have plied their trade in the city of Manchester.

Colin Bell, George Best, Bert Trautmann, Bobby Charlton, Francis Lee, Bryan Robson and Dennis Law have each been able to make their mark on whichever side of the city they have been employed by. However, despite the talents of the aforementioned group, no duo of players has amassed the same amount of trophies, medals and plaudits as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes during their time playing for the Manchester United football team.

These two footballing giants were able to maintain their presence within the Manchester United squad during the club's more prolific period and built a reputation despite events that may have taken place off the field. Champions League honours, FA Cup medals, Premier League trophies and other miscellaneous awards marked their careers, with the pair never having to contend too long without accolades.

So, is it time that they are now both lauded as the club's greatest players?

Of course, this is a controversial claim to make, with such statements always being open to the vagueries of relativity, but there is enough evidence that has been built up over the years to suggest that Giggs and Scholes have eclipsed all of their peers with successes that will probably never be equalled.

Many footballing deities have walked across the hallowed turf at Old Trafford. The skills and ability of "Busby's Babes" were only curtailed by the tragic circumstances that surrounded their performances and elevated their reputations to an almost mythical status.

When Matt Busby was appointed the manager of Manchester United in 1945 he inherited a club whose football ground had been destroyed by German bombs and a squad that had been ripped apart by war. Over the next 13 years, Busby won three First Division Championships and an FA Cup with an exuberant and youthful squad that played exotic and attacking football which would weave itself into Manchester United's heritage.

A historical legacy

Players such as Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Tommy Taylor and Eddie Coleman turned Manchester United into the most illustrious football club in England. However, following the Munich Air Disaster, the club was forced to rebuild and, under Busby's tutelage, was able to construct an impressive new squad that nurtured the talents of George Best, Dennis Law, Bill Foulkes and a resurgent Bobby Charlton, and which would go on to make Manchester United the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968.

Due to such circumstances, these players have immersed themselves within Manchester United's folklore with Best, in particular, displaying a kind of raw, exuberant talent never seen on English soil before. Then, with Busby's departure, and the retirement of these key players, the club entered a barren spell that would only see them excel as a cup side.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s players such as Steve Coppell, Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes became fan favourites because of their efforts on the pitch, despite the dominance of Liverpool in the league during this time.

It was Ferguson's arrival that ended the club's 26-year wait for a championship trophy and the inspirational introduction of Eric Cantona that was the catalyst for this change in Manchester United's fortunes. As a result, the fiery Frenchman continues to be regarded as a deity at Old Trafford, with his name still sung to this day on the Stretford End.

Ferguson's team continued to snatch Premier League trophy after trophy, and soon European honours and domestic cups were added to United's cabinet. Players such as Roy Keane, David Beckham, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Gary Neville were soon brought into the squad and would further energise United's unrelenting form, but it was Giggs and Scholes that were the mainstay of the team into the 1990s.

From Giggs' debut on 2 March, 1991 up until Scholes' departure in 2013, the Welshman and Englishmen (pictured) were apparently ever-present, pushing forward for Manchester United on the pitch, yet their roles within the squad also evolved over the years. Giggs turned from one of the most feared wingers in the game, whose devastating turn of pace and delivery terrorised opposition defences for years, evolving into a patient central midfielder whose eye for a killer pass often went unnoticed.

The Scholes effect

Scholes' transformation was even more remarkable.

Having originally started out as a striker, with his debut in the League Cup third round against Port Vale (resulting in two goals to his name), Scholes eventually moved toward the centre of the midfield where he developed a formidable partnership with Roy Keane. This midfield of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes and Keane soon became impenetrable, with each player complementing the other, while Scholes' passing and knack for scoring goals often went unnoticed.

It was only with the departure of some of these players, and the building of Ferguson's new squad in 2006, that Scholes was able to evolve into a different kind of player, his position coming to resemble that of a quarterback in an American football team rather than what had been seen in an English game before.

Scholes dictated the play. Deciding whether to make short and concise passes or to spread the play with long overarching cannons, his ability was unerring and, after his second formal retirement from the game in 2013, Manchester United soon came to realise that it was impossible to replace his skills on the pitch.

Scholes' later decision to return to United (following his first retirement) coincided with the club's return to form and rise to the summit of the league. Following a crucial 2-1 victory over Norwich, with both goals coming from Giggs and Scholes, Ferguson pronounced them to be the best players the club had ever had.

It would be hard, all these years later, to argue with that assessment.

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