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Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs: The Last of the One-Club Players?

Keith GriffinSenior Analyst IMay 23, 2008

I'm going to stay away from the post-Champions League buzz and draw your attention to Manchester United's other great achievement.

Wednesday night, when Ryan Giggs entered the pitch, a loud roar arose in the stadium. He entered the game as the most highly decorated player in England. Throughout his 18-year career, his trophy haul consists of 10 league titles, four F.A Cups and now two European Cups.

He also entered the game to break another record also, add another achievement to his illustrious career—he broke Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time appearance record, playing for United for his 759th time. He will be 35 years of age in November, and 18 of those years will have been dedicated to the Red Devils.

When Giggs first came to United on trial as a teenager, Fergie knew he had stumbled upon a gem. Ferguson went on to say that he knew within a few minutes that Giggs was the real deal—that the way he glided over the pitch, seemingly weightless, mesmerized him.

Now he has gone from that day to this, loyal to the cause, and a true professional.

Paul Scholes is the next player that Manchester United can be proud to call their own. Scholes is part of the 'Golden Generation' that also included the Nevilles—and, of course, David Beckham. Scholes can also be credited as the man who made it possible for us to play in this years Champion's League final, due to a goal reminiscent of the old bombarding Scholes of years gone by.

So the question I pose: Are these players the last of the one-club players? Are these the last of soldiers of the 'loyal' generation?

In the modern game, loyalty to a singular club throughout your entire career is so rare, that Giggs and Scholes are daily applauded for it. So rare that we spend our days watching our favourite teams, waiting to find a player that may also show loyalty to that team in the mould of Giggs and Scholes.

How many can stay loyal and play at the same level that Giggs and Scholes have over the years? Take Flamini—although not at Arsenal from an extremely young age, he had his breakout season for Arsenal this year, and what does he do? Up and leave for AC Milan.

Of course, credit must also go their professionalism off the pitch. This may also be the reason for their extended time playing for the club. Roy Keane for instance was Mr.United, but in the end his off-field (and some say on-field) antics led Ferguson to let his best midfielder ever to go. So, Giggs and Scholes also deserve applause for never appearing in papers over contract negotiations, or training-ground bustups.

Ferguson too deserves credit—especially for letting Giggs, who for a winger lost his legendary pace, adapt his game, and phase him into a different style, instead of just releasing him and replacing him with a youth long ago. Same for Scholes, who had a career-threatening eye injury. Yet, Ferguson stood by and Scholes repaid him by putting in the season of his life.

Now, I know there are other examples, such as Gary Neville. I'm just focusing on two players that I have idolised over the years, and who I still see as great examples to the youth of today. Also, Giggs and Scholes have played this a lot this season compared to Neville—hence, I focused on them.

Steven Gerrard is another great example. A Liverpool lad through and through, he has stood by Liverpool through thick and thin, and become a one man army. He too reflects the great professionalism shown by Giggs and Scholes.

Even as he no doubt craves the Premier League crown, as he has publicly stated, he has not moved off. He has not complained. He just keeps working on getting Liverpool there, and I believe he will eventually.

I personally believe it will be a long time before we see the mix of loyalty, world-class talent and professionalism in another player. Maybe it's the influx of foreign players into the EPL. Maybe its more about money these days than striving to be the best for your club and for your club to be the best.

Ferguson said after the Champions League win, "Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are in the twilights of their careers and they will still contribute in a big way next season as they normally do, but they won't play as many games.

"They will eventually be phased out which is what you have to do in this life. Ryan will be 35 in November, Paul will be 34 and they will play 25 to 30 games next season because we have the back-up, we have the young players now"

Paul Scholes opened the scoring for us this season in the EPL against Portsmouth, and Ryan Giggs closed the season by scoring against Wigan. And I thought then just how important they have been, still are, and always will be to Manchester United.

So do you think we will ever see the likes of these players again who combine talent, professionalism and unrivaled loyalty? And who else deserves a mention in your opinion?

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