Denis Irwin praises Ryan Giggs
Former Manchester United defender Denis Irwin has praised the "unbelievable" achievements of Ryan Giggs after the Welshman announced his retirement from professional football.
Giggs has hung up his boots after a 23-year playing career, in which he made a record 963 appearances for the Reds and won 34 trophies, as he embarks on a new chapter as assistant to new manager Louis van Gaal. Now Irwin, who played behind the veteran midfielder on the left flank during the 1990s and early 2000s, is the latest in a long line of former team-mates to pay tribute.
"I suppose all good things come to an end, but what an unbelievable player he has been for Manchester United," Irwin told MUTV. "The way he's done it as well is testament to himself. Someone called him a 'freak of nature' at one point – he's been an unbelievable player, and certainly a legend."
Irwin was replaced by Giggs against Everton in March 1991 as the latter made his Reds debut, and believes the new Old Trafford no.2 is among the best he has ever played with.
"I was fortunate enough to play with Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson – all fantastic players," he added. "Ruud van Nistelrooy, Peter Schmeichel, Paul Scholes – unbelievable talents, but Ryan is right up there with them.
"He was a fantastic player to have in front of you because you knew he would help you out with your defensive duties as well. He wasn't afraid to do the dirty side of football, to track back and make tackles and work off the ball. He came into the game as an out-and-out winger who could take players on, but later in his career he has been able to play in midfield, off the front, and even had a couple of spells at left-back. He could play anywhere, he was that talented."
With Giggs staying on at Old Trafford as van Gaal's right-hand man, Irwin feels the experience he can provide will be a great boost to the new manager.
"Ryan knows the club inside-out," noted Irwin. "He knows what it is to be a Manchester United player, what it takes to break into the first team, to stay there and work hard to win trophies. He knows the size of the club and what's going on in and around it – everything.
"He's been learning all his life under Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes but this is a new experience for him. He's a great personality in the dressing room, a really bubbly character. Let's hope he's as successful as a coach, and I'm sure as a manager in future years, as he was as a player."