If Ryan Giggs plays tonight he will have racked up 100 Champions League appearances for Manchester United. It is a great achievement for such a long servant to the club. In the 99 games that he has played so far he has scored an impressive 25 goals (so a goal every four games). This makes him the second top European cup scorer behind Ruud VanNistelrooy (who notched up 38 for the club).
Giggs first played in the European Cup back in the 93/94 season as a 20 year old. His first game was against Honved of Hungary and helped Manchester United to a 3-2 win in Hungry. The goals being converted by Keane (2) and Cantona. United finished off the Hungarian Champions 2-1, with a brace from Steve Bruce. The inexperience of the United side showed in the next round, losing to the Turkish Champions on the away goal rule. United drew 3-3 at Old Trafford and the Turks held the English Champions to a 0-0 draw in Turkey. Events in the 0-0 circulated around Eric Cantona who was to be banned for a number of games the following season. It was a good learning experience for United to face.
The Champions League was introduced in 1994/95 and with United winning the domestic league the previous May were entered once again. Giggs played in the first ever Champions League match at Old Trafford, when IFK Gothenburg visited Old Trafford. United got off to a great start in the group beating the Swedish Champions 4-2 and Giggs getting two of the goals. However, the rest of the group didn’t go so smoothly with United losing to Barcelona 4-0 and the Nou Camp and then going 3-1 down to IFK Gothenburg. Fergie learned from these two failed European experiences and the next time United qualified for the tournament they would reach the Semi final losing to Dortmund 2-0 over both legs.
Some of the great Giggsy goals over the years included that memorial goal against Juventus in 1997 to beat the Italians 3-2. Juventus were always considered the bench mark as United had lost to the Italians in previous tournaments. He continued the knack of scoring great goals against Juve in the 2002/03 season when United beat the Italians in turin 3-0, with Giggs (who was under pressure at the time for some poor performances domestically) picked up the ball from the half way line and dribbled around a number of players before slotting the ball right footed passed the helpless Buffon. The other goal that stands out against Juventus (once again!) is the goal in the final minutes at Old Trafford to secure a 1-1 draw in the 1998/99 season. Juventus played a lot better than United in the first leg, however that goal allowed United to push on to the next level in the second leg and win 3-2 to get to the final.
Ryan Giggs has been a great servant to the club and although he is getting on in years he is still a valuable asset to the club and will hopefully help United achieve a wide range of trophies this season. He should have won the competition at least two more times with United, however this was not to be and his only winners medals comes from the 1999 final. Ryan Giggs – a great servant, a great ambassador and most of all a great player.