Ryan Joseph Giggs, OBE (born Ryan Joseph Wilson on 29th November 1973 in Cardiff) is a Welsh footballer, currently playing for Manchester United in the English Premiership, and formerly for the Welsh national team prior to his retirement from international football on June 2, 2007. Giggs received an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, alongside his former team mate Teddy Sheringham, who received an MBE.
Giggs is Manchester United's longest-serving current player, having made his first appearance for the club during the 1990-91 season and been a regular player since the 1991-92 season. He has played the second highest number of competitive games for the club (second only to Bobby Charlton), and holds the club record of team trophies won by a player (23). Since 1992, he has collected nine Premier League winners' medals, four FA Cup winner's medals, two League Cup winner's medals and one Champions League winner's medal. He also has runners-up medals from two FA Cup finals and two League Cup finals, as well as being part of four United teams who have finished second in the league.
He also won the PFA Young Player of the Year award twice (1992 and 1993), making him the first player to win the award in consecutive years - a feat matched only by Robbie Fowler and current team-mate Wayne Rooney. Giggs holds many other records, including that of the top all-time scorer in the FA Premier League not to play regularly in the position of striker, and holds the record for scoring Manchester United's fastest goal (15 seconds), set in November 1995 against Southampton, and is one of only two players to have scored in every Premiership campaign (Gary Speed being the other). Also, having scored his first European goal of the season in United’s 3-1 victory over Benfica, Giggs became the first player in Champions League history to score in 12 successive seasons.
Giggs is currently vice-captain to Gary Neville at Manchester United.
Giggs began his football career as a junior member of Deans Sports F.C. in Swinton and was spotted as a 14-year-old by Manchester City. His dribbling skills were compared to players such as George Best, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruijff. Giggs' talent became widely recognised, and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson went to his house personally to urge him to sign for Manchester United instead of Manchester City. He persuaded Giggs by waiving YTS forms with the opportunity to turn professional in three years. Giggs ended up signing with Manchester United.
Giggs turned professional on his 17th birthday in November 1990 and made his League debut against Everton F.C. at Old Trafford on 2 March 1991, as a substitute for Denis Irwin.
By the start of the 1992-93 season - the first season of the newly-formed FA Premier League, Giggs made the left-wing position at United his own, and became known as one of British football's most prodigious young players. His emergence and the arrival of Eric Cantona (who later claimed that he had a telepathic understanding with/of Giggs) heralded the dominance of United in the new Premier League. His manager was very protective of him, refusing to allow Giggs to be interviewed until he turned 20, eventually granting the first interview to the BBC's Desmond Lynam for Match of the Day. By the late 1990s, with the retirement of Cantona and the emergence of Giggs' fellow fledgling young colleagues like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Philip Neville and Nicky Butt, Giggs' popularity and fame gradually evened out and attention was paid to some of the younger stars. However, his football skill was still marked genius, and he developed into a more mature senior player by the time United won their record breaking and unprecedented "Treble" in 1999. This achievement aided by Giggs' form and key contributions in several tournaments.
Giggs' form in the years after the achievements of 1999 was reflective of Manchester United's dominance of the English game up until 2003 with Giggs still relishing his left wing slot. United won the League title four times in that period, and had always made it to UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals at the very least. He celebrated his 10-year anniversary at Old Trafford with a testimonial match against Celtic at the start of the 2001-02 campaign. A year later, he bagged his 100th career goal in a draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
He managed to win the FA Cup once more in 2004, making him one of only two players (the other being Roy Keane) to have won the trophy four times, while playing for Manchester United. He has also finished with a runners-up medal three times.
His participation in the victory over Liverpool in September 2004 made him the third player to play 600 games for United, alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of his contribution to the English game.
After the 2004 / 5 season, Giggs signed a two-year contract extension with Manchester United when chairman David Gill relented on his normal policy of not signing players over 30 to contracts longer than one year. The extension, which runs through to July 2008, will most probably keep him at Old Trafford for the remainder of his playing career.
Giggs has reinvented himself and continues to contribute positively to the Manchester United cause even after team-mates like David Beckham and Roy Keane had left. Giggs has also benefited from being largely injury-free aside from some trouble with his hamstrings which, according to his autobiography, prevents him from running at full throttle to this day.
Ryan Giggs made his 700th appearance for Manchester United on 3 March 2007 in a Premier League match against Liverpool, which Manchester United won 1-0. By the end of the 2006-07 season, he will be fewer than 60 games away from breaking Bobby Charlton's appearance record for the club, set in 1973 - the year Giggs was born. On 6 May 2007, with Chelsea drawing 1-1 with London rivals Arsenal, Manchester United became the champions of England. In doing so Ryan Giggs set a record of nine league titles thus beating the previous record of eight held by Alan Hansen and Phil Neal.
On 19th May 2007, Giggs was named as United's captain in the FA Cup final. He had a couple of shots during normal time, most notably a volley from a perfectly-weighted Paul Scholes pass, which he put only a couple of inches over the bar. Halfway through the first half of extra-time, with the score still at 0-0, Giggs slid in onto the end of a Wayne Rooney cross, only to poke the ball tamely into Petr Cech's arms. However, the momentum of his slide carried him into Cech and the goalkeeper was bundled over the goal line. Both Giggs and Alan Smith appealed for a goal, believing that the ball had crossed the line, but the referee turned away their protests, allowing play to continue. Subsequent television replays showed that the ball had indeed crossed the line, but in retrospect neither the referee nor his assistant on the far side would have had a conclusive view of the incident. However, the ball crossed the line only after Petr Cech was pushed over the line by Giggs and it is unlikely that a goal would have been awarded if seen by the referees. Television replays also suggest that Michael Essien may have tripped Giggs from behind, giving United a strong claim for a penalty, but again the referee did not award a penalty. Chelsea rallied in the last few minutes, and Didier Drogba scored the winner in the 116th minute, leaving Giggs with his third defeat out of seven FA Cup finals.
Giggs won 64 caps and scored 12 goals for the Welsh national team between 1991 and 2007. However his international career was frustrating as, like Alfredo Di Stéfano and George Best, he did not play in either a European Championship or a World Cup finals, because Wales failed to qualify. He was appointed captain of Wales in 2004. In September 2006, Giggs put in a dazzling performance in a friendly against Brazil at White Hart Lane. Such was his display that, following the 2-0 win for Brazil, Brazil coach Dunga paid Giggs the ultimate compliment by stating he would not look out of place playing for the five-time world champions alongside stars such as Kaká and Ronaldinho.
Giggs announced his retirement from international football on Wednesday 30 May 2007 at a press conference held at The Vale of Glamorgan Hotel. His final game for Wales, and as captain, was the Euro 2008 Qualifier against the Czech Republic on 2 June at Cardiff. He earned his 64th cap in this game and won the Man of the Match award as Wales drew 0-0.
In recent years, Giggs has also become a UNICEF representative, launching a campaign to prevent land mines from killing children in 2002.
Giggs, who had visited UNICEF projects in Thailand, told the BBC: "As a footballer I can't imagine life without the use of one of my legs...Sadly this is exactly what happens to thousands of children every year when they accidentally step on a land mine." Giggs is also an active campaigner in the fight against racism in football, alongside fellow mixed-raced players like Rio Ferdinand and Thierry Henry.
Giggs is also a patron of the Manchester-based 'Five Star Scanner Appeal', a charity that aims to raise £1m to fund a new scanner at a new Manchester Children's Hospital due to be built ready for 2009.