Scrutinising the age spectrum at Man United | Pakistan Today

Scrutinising the age spectrum at Man United

Ryan Giggs has signed a one-year contract extension, which would take the 38-year old veteran into a 22nd year at Old Trafford, following his debut in March 1991. When Ryan Giggs signed his professional contract on 29th November 1990, United’s goalkeeping prodigy David De Gea was merely 22 days old; and it is these two players at the two extremes of the age spectrum in the United squad who have been under the spotlight in recent matches for a wide array of reasons.
We had run out of superlatives to describe Giggs’ excellence and longevity a few years back, and now one can only sit back and applaud an absolutely unique footballer and realise that players of his kin and creed are becoming rarer as time moves on. In a sense, the Welshman epitomises everything that symbolises Man Utd’s trophy laden years, during which he has been an integral part of the club’s setup. He has had the adaptability to change according to the fluctuating needs of his team and in synchrony with the evolving nature of the game. The fact that he has retained his hunger and drive for success after winning everything that English football offers many a time, illustrates the ethos of his club, and also demonstrated something that is criminally missing amongst the current seniors at Old Trafford.
38 years young, Ryan Giggs is quite often seen as the most creative spark for Manchester United even in the present time; which shows his importance to the current United side and the lack of similar ingenuity amongst his younger teammates. At an assist per 95 minutes in the BPL, Ryan Giggs has the best assist per minute ratio in the league; hence, while the legs don’t allow the relentless marauding runs of a few years back, the ball playing skills, passing, movement and crossing is second to none as United’s number 11 approaches the 40-year old mark. Young players – and not only from Old Trafford – can take a lesson or two in crossing from him; and a couple such potential apprentices spring to mind, from the left and right wing of Liverpool and Arsenal respectively. With United’s midfield marred with injuries and incompetence, Giggs has done a marvelous job in the center of the park to ensure that his side still finds the top of the league table well within their sights.
David De Gea was earmarked as Edwin Van Der Saar’s successor, when more experienced options were available in the market. A season of mixed performances has meant that the current goalkeeping scenario is reminiscent of the circus put on display after Peter Schmeichel retired in 1999. De Gea has failed to stamp himself as the number 1 at Old Trafford, and after an abysmal showing against Blackburn in late December, it was Anders Lindegaard who supplanted him as Fergie’s number 1. However, injuries to Lindegaard and Ben Amos have meant that De Gea is once again in the spotlight, and his performance in the 3-3 draw against Chelsea summarised the Spaniard’s first year in the BPL – panic-stricken, with the potential of being absolutely brilliant.
David De Gea’s decision making leaves a lot to be desired on many occasions, and when in the first ten minutes at Old Trafford he chose to punch a ball, for which he could have run across to Cech’s goal and come back to his own and still have enough time to catch it, shows his lack of comfort in such situations. A lot of that is due to the fact that he’s merely 21, which connotes that he still has to grow, both physically and mentally. 21 is too young an age for goalkeepers to flaunt their best, and most of them don’t reach their peak till the late 20s, when they become mentally strong, and can cope with the pressure of being in a position on the football pitch, where the smallest of mistakes can cost their side the game.
Nevertheless, the Spaniard has from time to time also displayed why he is rated so highly by pundits in Spanish football and by those at the managerial helm at Old Trafford. De Gea’s double save late on against Chelsea, from the Cahill shot and more astoundingly that acrobatic effort from the Mata free kick that looked bound for the top corner for all money, shows the young prodigy’s top drawer shot stopping skills. However, one needs a lot of mental fortitude to be the goalkeeper at Old Trafford – as the likes of Howard, Carrol, Bosnich, Taibi and Barthez found out – since there is so much pressure resting on every game. De Gea might eventually become the complete package and a world beating goal keeper, but he’s far from being that at the moment.

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