Date: 11th February 2011 at 9:15am
Written by:

Me and United's Greatest Ever Player- I'm the one on the left

Me with our 'Greatest Ever Player'- I'm the one on the left

I think Ryan Giggs is great.  I really do.  I’ve watched him throughout all his career at Old Trafford, and even though he’s had his times where he’s frustrated the living daylights out of me, on the whole his near 20 year career with us has been filled with magic, quality, and loads of memories.

I think he’s so good, that I want him down on the team sheet every game.  Despite the fact he’s 74 years old now.

And I think he’s that fantastic, I carry a photo of me and him around with me in my wallet (see above), taken in the summer of 1992. (And OK, before I write any more, I’ll point out that the reasoning behind me doing that is more tongue in cheek than the intentions of an obsessive fanatic!  I carry it as a result of me taking it everywhere with me when I was a kid, and when I was in my late twenties my mates took the piss out of me for that.  So I put it in my wallet one day, took it out with me and it’s never been removed!).

And, because of all this, I was delighted that Giggsy came out on top of the Greatest Ever United Player poll, conducted by the official United website.  Giggs seemed pleased about it too, and said: “I was really chuffed…I couldn’t believe it to be honest, especially when you look at the list of other players who are up there.”

Look at the list of other players eh?!  Ok, I’ll do that….so I did.

I looked at the top 10, and despite the top three being arguably predictable, I was astonished to see the omission of certain players.  Immediately, and as if on auto pilot, I questioned it’s validity…cue Steve-analysis from the heart.

Duncan Edwards was where?  Denis Law was where?  Bryan Robson…where was he?

Now, out of this lot, I only ever saw Robbo play (those of you who know me will know I’m biased towards him as he’s my all time hero) but still, I believe that out of United’s greatest ever players, they should be cemented in that top 10.  History tells me that Edwards should be in there, and Law should be top 10 material too.

Yeah, they made the top 20, but come on.  Some of the players in that top 10 don’t come close to either of those two.

History….now, there’s a key word.

I grew up with football when United were barely on TV.  I found out about new signings by reading next days paper, and Tom Tyrell wrote the odd United book that you had to buy.  The BBC Official History of Manchester United was THE video to have, and because you only had those, you read them and watched them.  With interest and intrigue.  You learned, you understood, and you knew your history.

It was enough to make your heart go woaaaaaaaaah……

It made sure you knew about United right from Newton Heath. You knew about Harry Stafford, you knew about the dog, Billy Meredith, Munich, Frank O’Farrell, Laurie Brown’s missus, the five minute final….shut up now, Steve.

Down the line to modern times, modern day United coverage comes thick and fast from the introduction of the internet and Sky Sports…and the amount of it, albeit good for the present, is a disaster for our history.  We’re in an age now where football history, or to be specific to this piece, United’s history only started in 1993. Or 1999 in some cases.  So you would think anyway.  It’s all too easy to watch, readily available, and eclipses footage from earlier days.

Try putting a complete history book in front of a 10 year old lad now, they’ll only flick through the colour pages of Cole, Yorke and Keane and onwards.

More embarrassing were the actions of my friends’ son, who is about 9 years old.  His favourite player is Michael Owen. He voted for him. As United’s greatest player ever?

“Did you know, that what Michael Owen did to Champions League winner Ronny Johnsen resulted in him never being the same player again?” was a question I held back in my head.  But I was really annoyed.  At him?  At the poll?  At history slowly eroding away like the gardens of houses by cliffs by the sea?

A web poll is going to attract first and foremost the generation who have grown up thinking that the internet has always been here.  There are ‘silver surfers’ and credit to them, but they’re in the minority.  And it’s a shame, because an official club poll, which doesn’t have Edwards, Law, Robson and others in the top 10 of it’s results puts the clubs history in jeopardy.  Surely something a bit more analytical, yet still simple could have been put in place for such an honour.

Off the top of my head, is this the club once again thinking of only the modern day and detaching itself from our tradition just that little bit more?

In hindsight, this poll should have been done differently for the sake of United’s history.  Perhaps like this:

  • Page one: A list of the top 40 players who’ve made the most appearances, with the statement “Tick the box next to all the players that you have seen play for Manchester United”
  • Page two: The list of players that you have already selected.  The statement on this page says “Out of this list, who is the greatest player you have seen play for Manchester United”.  You can only select one.

In the background, a percentage is worked out.  For instance if 100 people saw Georg Best play, and 98 of those thought he was the greatest, he gets a 98% vote.  If 400 saw Ronaldo play and 300 voted him the greatest they’d seen, he’s earn a score of 75%.

The top 10 would be listed in order of percentage scored.  And I guarantee that we’d have a top 10 more relfective and accurate of United’s history.

Just thank god for Sir Ryan Giggs.  Thankfully the overall winner was an appropriate and fantastic choice.

Steve

Follow me on Twitter: @stevecrab