Belfast Telegraph

Surely Ryan Giggs must be the next to quit Manchester United?

By James Lawton

Now that Paul Scholes has gone, can Ryan Giggs be far behind? The question is inevitable.

In their different styles and natures, both held at bay the years quite stupendously, but for the last few seasons they probably didn't need telling that they were operating on borrowed time.

Yesterday Scholes, at 36 a year younger than his team-mate, confirmed the reality that in his career he had faced just two obstacles.

One was a chronic inability to not only master the art of making a coherent, legal tackle but also grasping the fundamentals of the challenge. The other was that one day he might grow old on the field.

Some suspect that it may have happened in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City last month when his tackle on Pablo Zabaleta drew the most formal of red cards.

This was not just Scholes, but also history playing more than a shade dirty for if his tackling was both an eye-sore and dangerous every other part of his game, including his attitude to it, was nothing less than an unremitting glory.

For the player who prompted Sir Bobby Charlton to say, 'watching him play makes me want to get out there with the ball at my feet' to leave his last great stage in such ignominious circumstances must have prompted sadness in all but the most rabid partisans.

The fact that so often in his final season Scholes was able to remind us of the best and most creative of his talent only heightened the poignancy of his losing battle against the clock. Losing? Well, it is a relative term and does nothing to deflect us from the fact that of all his generation of footballers few began to match the constancy of both his play and his desire. He made football his only existence beyond the one he shared with his family and close friends and it is one impoverished by his departure.

The same will be true of Giggs when he too decides that it is time to walk away. That his performance against Barcelona in the Champions League was so surrounded by personal difficulties was one of two points of sadness. The other was that against the highest standard of opposition it was clear that Giggs could no longer impose the enduring talent that had at such pivotal moments illuminated his season.

For Giggs the fear must be that while he struggled in the slipstream of men like Messi and Xavi and Iniesta another reality landed with the force of a hammer. It was that at the highest point of the season's challenge that in so many ways he handled quite brilliantly he was a lost figure.

That surely, brought even more urgency to United's job of completely re-casting a midfield which, for a second time in two years against Barca, had been exposed as unfit for the highest purposes.

There is talk of a move for the finely creative Luka Modric and clearly he would be a major step in the right direction. However, Modric alone would likely be swamped by the scale of his task.

It may seem indelicate this talk of new feet in the shoes of men like Scholes and Giggs, but then when did football ever linger over the need to assign its heroes to the past? Maybe the best tribute will always be the urgency with which they are replaced, however discouraging the task.

Belfast Telegraph

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