Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Giggs adds versatility to his vintage pedigree

Click to follow
The Independent Football

It seemed ludicrous then, and it seems even more so now, but not so long ago Ryan Giggs was a target for criticism by some sections of the Old Trafford crowd. They are not carping now.

The recipient of the Premiership Player of the Month for August, Giggs, now 32, scored his second winning goal in two League matches, maintaining Manchester United's 100 per cent start to the season and managing the near impossible. Instead of looking forward to what Michael Carrick might do in a red shirt, attention turned to a time when the team will have to do without their most enduring talent.

Carrick, making his first home start against his old club, was initially and inevitably the focus and, to give him his due, he did enough to suggest he could become United's best passer from central midfield since Pat Crerand, which is no trifling accolade. Rather than play the holding role, this time Carrick was further forward, proving, as his former manger Martin Jol said, "that he can fill a number of positions. He is very versatile."

Versatile? Compared to Giggs, Carrick has all the range of John Wayne. We are only four games into the Premiership season and the Welshman has already appeared as a winger, central midfielder and striker, while the role of scapegoat that some United supporters awarded him a while ago has quietly been laid to rest.

"He's been fantastic for this club, there's no question of that," said Sir Alex Ferguson, who described Giggs as one of the greatest players of all time. "He's using his experience and maturity now, which is very pleasing because we need people who can do that."

Both Ferguson and Gary Neville were asked whether Giggs was performing better than at any time in his career, which brought a querulous smile to the latter who has watched his team-mate ravage Champions' League opponents in the past, not to mention score arguably the greatest FA Cup goal in history. "Not really," Neville replied, "he's played better than that. I think people will only appreciate him properly when he's gone."

If Giggs provoked questions about his peak, there was no chance of United as a whole doing the same. They began as if about to rip Spurs apart and then lapsed into an untidy performance from which they were lucky to emerge with three points. Jol counted five chances that could have yielded an equaliser but he will have particularly regretted missed headers by Jermain Defoe and Mido.

The Tottenham manager also has a problem with Aaron Lennon, who missed this game with a knee injury and could face an operation which would keep him out for several weeks. Which made the decisive part played by another player who began as a flying winger even more of a paradox. "It's a tribute to his fitness," Jol said of Giggs. "He's fitter than some players 10 years younger than him."

Having filled in for Wayne Rooney, Giggs will probably return to the left flank when the real thing returns against Celtic in the Champions' League on Wednesday. Twelve points out of 12 and Europe too; if only the weather would match his Indian summer.

Goal: Giggs (9) 1-0.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Evra; Ronaldo (Silvestre, 90), Carrick (Fletcher, 80), O'Shea, Richardson (Park, 65); Saha, Giggs.Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Solskjaer.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-4-1): Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Murphy, 81), Assou-Ekotto; Zokora; Ghaly, Jenas, Davids (Ziegler, 57), Mido; Keane (Defoe, 57). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Huddlestone.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Manchester United Evra; Tottenham Mido, Ghaly.

Man of the match: Jenas.

Attendance: 75,453.