Asked to sum up David Beckham in three words: A trophy winner. Take away the iconic face, the beautiful wife, and the looks that literally ripped the clothes off any women he’d encounter – Beck’s was a footballer, and success followed him wherever he went.
When asked to sum up Ryan Giggs in three words: Twenty-three years. The exact amount of time Giggsy has been with United’s senior side since joining in 1990. The pop star face may not have the six-pack abs or the adaptable hair that Beckham has, but what the 39-year-old possesses is legendary. No, we’re not talking about his lion mane of chest hair he graciously displayed to the world in ’99. Giggs has class that transcends time a true red in every essence of the word. The Welshman’s played through the days of Martin Edwards, and under the Glazer’s; however, the stability he saw in manager Sir Alex Ferguson is stuff of legend.
During his playing career, Beckham traveled the world. Cementing himself into football glory with a wonder goal from the half way line against Wimbledon saw the boyish grin on his face. He won in Manchester, he won in Madrid, he won in Los Angeles, he won in Milan, and to cap off his career he won in Paris. Whether part of the Galacticos or alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the final days of his career, his trophy cabinet spans different countries all with which have a unique story. Was he destined for greatness after 10 years with United? His larger than life attitude, and trademark free kicks are now to be mystified to those who never had the luxury of watching the specialist compete.
For Giggs, his story doesn’t leave Manchester. Growing up in the youth ranks of City, he was quickly scooped up by United when their youth revolution boomed in ’92. Giggs grew up with class players in the system, and saw even better transfer into Old Trafford. Unlike Beckham, Giggs seemed to take a more quite take as a footballer – although it’s become apparent he is quite the hellion in the dressing room and surely enjoyed himself during his younger years.
It’s possible that the lessened pressures of his Welsh national squad, allowed to prolong his football career to now nearly 40 years young. To call Giggs old is an understatement – he still is out there performing with the best of them. He’s been sent in on defenses like against Swansea City where his obvious lack of pace was apparent but, his willingness to run and provide to those ahead of him is admirable. Take a look at Danny Welbeck, for example, who has endured his own goal scoring troubles. A perfect timed run and brilliant chip later and the whole world is off his back.
Determining the difference between a legend at a club, and an icon is much easier than distinguishing who isn’t a legend. Too loosely in today’s modern media driven world we hear about legends. Michael Owen a legend? Ruud van Nistelrooy a legend? Cristiano Ronaldo a legend? Owen, like van Nistelrooy, were scorers of timely goals – and many goals at that. To throw the term “legend” on the back of their shirts would be a dig at players like Eric Cantona, Paul Scholes, Peter Schmeichel, Gary Pallister, players whom really loved United, for all it was worth. Ronaldo, as great as he was for us, left. Although his time at Old Trafford was quick yet full of memories, he’s now with Real, where he always wanted to play.
An icon like David Beckham is another matter. There is no questions of his footballing capabilities Beckham; however, his pop star face and rock star life are what push him more towards icon, rather than legend. If he’s to be considered a legend, it would be for the entire sport because of his contributions to both his on field talents and his worldwide brand recognition off it.
The brilliant goal against Greece to send England to the World Cup, those hectic loan moves to AC Milan in the summer of ’09 and ’10 brought hope that this man would remain in Europe. Is David Beckham a Manchester United legend? At the moment, he’s a likable footballer who still to this day has a lot going for him in terms of financial ventures and potential club ownership offers. Ultimately, he was never going to be a one club man – which in many regards is why Giggs has been so legendary.
Legends do switch clubs. Being a one stop man at Old Trafford did not immediately pencil in Giggs for greatness, although it does have a nice ring to it. He’s upheld a strenuous training regime, playing in over 1,000 matches in arguably the worlds most competitive league, and still competes for a spot in David Moyes’ starting XI. With no signs of slowing down, the current player-coach’s legs would fall off before he’d call it quits. He bleeds United, and has brought kissing the crest to an entire new level.
Search the forums, or simply type Beckham’s name into Google: images of him sporting his briefs, watches, or hairstyles galore pop up on the screen. Now type in Ryan Giggs: we see stability. His face has aged since ’90, his hair has become a bit more grey but if anything, his smile has gotten bigger. The trophy cabinet has become so full the doors will not close, he’s been at the club practically his entire life. His initials must still be engraved in a parking spot at The Cliff. The sponsor’s across his chest may have changed, but he’s still a red. And a mighty damn fine red he is, Giggsy.