“Whatever happened to that Ryan Wilson you used to rave about?” George Graham once asked Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fergie chuckled. “He changed his name… to Giggs.”
The legendary Manchester United boss had been boasting about one of the great young talents of the 20th Century long before Ryan Giggs signed his first professional contract on his 17th birthday on November 29th, 1990.
The flying winger would go on to become one of the players Ferguson would define as the stand-out performers in the greatest period of dominance in English football history.
The Scot wrote in his 2015 book ‘Leading’: “I don’t mean to demean or criticise any of the great or very good footballers who played for me during my 26-year career at United, but there were only four who were world class: Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes.”
A winner of 13 league titles, four FA Cups and two Champions Leagues in a career which spanned almost a quarter-of-a-century, Giggs truly stood apart from the crowd from a very young age with some unforgettable goals.
Here are just six of the phenomenal strikes that helped make him one of British footballs all-time greats...
Manchester United v Manchester City, 1991 - The Beginning
The first of his 114 goals for the club, this strike turned a skinny kid into an instant hero among Manchester United fans just a few months on from having turned pro.
To this day, Giggs claims he is not sure if he got the final touch on a ball whipped in from the right by Brian McClair ahead of City defender Colin Hendry, with the United man opening his body to guide the ball home under pressure. The record books give the only goal of the game to Giggs, making it the perfect derby debut on his first full United appearance at Old Trafford.
Tottenham v Manchester United, 1992 - Emulating Best
When Giggs first burst onto the scene as a youngster back in 1990 his speed, agility and dribbling skills drew instant comparisons with another United legend, George Best. And at times he more than lived up to the heavy expectations on his shoulders.
Never more so than in September 1992 when United faced Spurs at White Hart Lane, as Giggs pounced on a Dean Austin slip before nutmegging Jason Cundy and zipping past Ian Walker in the Tottenham goal and firing across a retreating defender from a narrow angle for a goal Best himself would have been proud of. In fact Best was later reported to have this to say about the winger, "One day they might even say that I was another Ryan Giggs".
Manchester United v Southampton, 1993 - Double Trouble
Having blown the league title down the run-in in 1992, United were determined to end their 26-year drought 12 months on. The jitters were starting to show in February 1993 when Southampton arrived at Old Trafford though, with Ferguson’s side having dropped costly points to Ipswich and Leeds and been dumped out of the FA Cup by Sheffield United in the weeks before.
After a late Nicky Banger goal, United looked destined for another end-of-season collapse until Giggs stepped up to latch onto a Cantona through-ball and draw his side level with seven minutes to go. Another Giggs goal within 90 seconds sent Reds fans into ecstasy and United never looked back, losing only one of their remaining 13 games to win a first title since 1967.
Arsenal v Manchester United, 1999 - The Best Of The Lot
Manchester United and Arsenal enjoyed one of the greatest rivalries in football in the 1990s, with Giggs heavily involved throughout. His contribution to the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay is quite probably the defining moment of his whole career.
With the two sides level in extra-time and penalties looming, Giggs weaved his way through the Arsenal defence all the way from the halfway line before his blistering shot into the roof of the net sent United through and sparked a hairy celebration that is remembered just as vividly as the goal itself.
The last-ever semi-final replay goal was also one of the FA Cup’s greatest ever strikes.
Manchester United v Juventus, 1997 - Cracking Europe
United had faced Juventus twice in the previous season’s competition and had been convincingly defeated on both occasions. But this match, thanks to a vital contribution from Giggs, signalled United's coming of age in Europe.
Having fallen behind in the first minute through an Alessandro Del Piero strike, United rallied to take a 2-1 lead before Teddy Sheringham's fine through-ball sent Giggs clear and, from a seemingly impossible angle, the winger lashed the ball past Angelo Peruzzi. Brilliant stuff.
Manchester City v Manchester United, 1996 - Deciding The Derby
United were three points ahead of Kevin Keegan's Newcastle at the top of the Premier League when they travelled to face neighbours Manchester City at Maine Road knowing only a win would do if they were to keep pace with the Magpies in one of the greatest title races ever.
Twice United took the lead and twice Manchester City equalised before, on 77 minutes, Eric Cantona slid the ball through to Giggs, who got the better of Keith Curle before lashing the ball past Eike Immel to give his side a vital three points in a title race the Reds would eventually win, leaving Keegan a little rattled along the way.