Giggs left to feel like an exile on home soil

Manchester United's Welsh marauder finds Old Trafford turning into a theatre of broken dreams

Ryan Giggs had been waiting for this day all his life. Indeed, many in his homeland considered it his destiny. Emulating the blood-soaked heroes of Welsh legend, it was written that Giggs would lead his rabid countrymen for one last raid across Offa's Dyke to give the enemy what for.

The old bards would have appreciated the poetic justice of it all. The young man who had spent his formative years mixing among the enemy, rising out of their ranks when they least expected it to bring down the English overlords. Yes, the scriptwriters had been saving Private Ryan for this battle. This was his World Cup final, his platform to let his outrageous talent shine, his chance to implant himself in a Welsh folklore that would be played out for generations as bedside lamps were switched off across the Principality.

Alas, the only thing that will disturb Welsh slumbers in future years is the vision of Old Trafford, the theatre of the recurring dream. In it they will see Frank Lampard's early thunderbolt, David Beckham's strike of lightning but, most depressingly of all, Giggs drowning in a downpour of anti-climax. That it had to be played out on the stage that Giggs has made his own made the whole scenario seem somehow unfair.

Indeed, running out as an "away" player at the stadium that he has called home for all his grown days must have been the weirdest moment so far in the exalted life of Ryan Giggs.

Weirder than having to up his Cardiff roots to move north as a boy, weirder than feeling forced to change his surname as a 13-year-old and, yes, even weirder than captaining England Schoolboys to victory against his beloved Wales. It just didn't seem right.

"Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, flying down the wing" in the role as villain of the Stretford End? Imagine Margaret Thatcher on the Labour frontbenches, the Reverend Ian Paisley topping the bill at the Vatican, or Sean Connery playing Dr No and you'd just about have it. Rarely has anyone had to acclimatise so quickly to such familiar surroundings.

Within three minutes he discovered what it is like to be a helpless minnow in the biggest club pond of all. In effect, Lampard's goal blew the fire out of Mark Hughes' Dragons before they had even had a chance to clear their larynxes. That it had unwittingly deflected off Michael Owen's ankle - a player the Welsh like to call their own, having been reared at their schools, on their pitches, with their betting slips - only deepened the visitors' misery.

Inevitably, they looked to Giggs to fan the embers. They looked in the wrong place. He did give Gary Neville a taster of the havoc his great friend had seen him wreaking in the opposite corner of the ground for all those years, but that's all it was, a taster, and not a very appetising one at that. One trademark mazy run, that upended Neville, was all Giggs had to show for a first half that must rank quite easily as his most humbling ever in these parts.

He could not even wholly blame his inferior team-mates for the paucity of his contribution either; he was given enough of the ball all right, he just couldn't do much with it.

Apart from letting one pass from Jason Koumas slip under his feet and into touch, there was also a lame free-kick that Wales could really not afford to waste, not to mention a flicked header in the box that sent the ball spinning towards the corner flag just as it appeared destined for Gary Speed's head.

It was not for the want of trying, however. Giggs was at least showing the spirit to run back a full 50 yards to dispossess Wayne Rooney on one occasion.

But even as these two became entangled it was hard not to feel that we were watching the final throes of a fading United hero trying anything to stop the inexorable ascendancy of the Reds' newest, brightest star.

In fact, judging by the noise of the greeting Robert Earnshaw received when coming on with 20 minutes to go, it seems that Giggs can no longer even lay claim to being Wales's most popular player. He had reminded everyone of the extraordinary skill he possesses with a nutmeg that had Neville looking at the air between his legs in disbelief, but, in truth, Wales had retreated into their shell and it was going to take more than one piece of trickery to woo them out.

Unfortunately, that was all Giggs had to offer. On the afternoon that Hughes had promised was to be lit up with Giggs' finest hour, the forlorn winger had to witness another former team-mate, David Beckham, restate his majesty with a classic goal.

Giggs trooped off the pitch - his pitch - a beaten and bowed Welshman. Twenty years is a long time to wait for a let-down as galling as this one turned out to be.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy