Ryan Giggs is a legend. It doesn't matter who you support, the verdict is the same. We caught up with the most decorated player in the history of English football on a misty winter's morning in Manchester, soon after he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year and before he broke his arm. The interview appears in the March issue of Esquire (out now), but here are some extras...
ESQUIRE: Congratulations on the BBC Sports Personality Award – you seem to be at a point where you’ve transcended club rivalry, which is saying something as a Man United player....
RYAN GIGGS: I’ve always had people come up to me to say that they admire the way I play and then they tell me they’re not United fans. That’s always been nice. I play for United, I’m a United player and that’s it. I don’t know the reason why it is. There are other players like that but it doesn’t happen too often.
ESQ: You’ve said that growing up your sporting heroes were people like Sebastian Coe and Michael Johnson. What was it that you liked about them?
RG: I had more heroes in other sports generally. I could name a load – rugby players, athletes, footballers. During the Eighties I used to watch a lot of athletics. My dad played rugby so I used to watch a lot of rugby union and rugby league. I had football heroes as well – Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes, really. I also liked Diego Maradona.
ESQ: Was it anything about the way Johnson and Coe moved that you liked particularly, or was it more to do with the fact they were both winners?
RG: More their success really. Seb Coe had the rivalry with Ovett and it was great times for British athletics. Growing up, I used to enjoy athletics at school. I liked Carl Lewis and Ed Moses too. It was a great era. Michael Johnson was a bit later, and he was unique in the way he ran.
ESQ: You are currently taking your coaching exams. Tell us what the sessions are like when you’re training for your badges. Do you get schoolteachers sharing the same classroom with superstars of the British professional game?
RG: It used to be like that but the FA have changed it in the last couple of years — after Southgate, Shearer and Incey — to make it a lot more friendly to the pros who are playing, so that when they do finish playing they are actually qualified. The class I was in, there was me, Nev (Gary Neville), Solskjaer, Roberto Di Matteo, Gus Poyet – players that had recently finished. It was a good group. It’s nerve wracking though. The first coaching session that I took, I was just rubbish. I did my B license about five years ago so it was my first coaching session in a long time. The first session just went by me, though I was better in the second one. It’s a mixture of the ex-players and college kids. It’s good but it’s hard because it’s completely different. You’re used to being in the middle playing so it’s hard being on the outside where you’ve got to coach. It’s a difficult transition but I enjoyed it.
ESQ: You were once hailed as the new George Best but are now seen as an elder statesman. Has marriage and fatherhood helped you make that transition?
RG: I think it has changed me. Obviously, getting married is a big step. I don’t think anything has changed in the relationship but the kids are a big thing. Mine are six and three and fatherhood does change you. It’s tough at times but it’s also the most rewarding thing ever.
ESQ: We bet Sir Alex Ferguson was pleased when you got married, wasn’t he?
RG: [laughs] Yeah, he’s been wanting top know when I was getting married since I was 17. So I think he was happy, yes.
ESQ: As a United fan who joined the club at an early age, it must be a remarkable feeling to have surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton in terms of appearances for the club and honours collected…
RG: It is, yeah. Obviously I’m proud but it doesn’t come into my head until people talk about it. It just doesn’t. I’ll have plenty of time to think about it and obviously I was very proud to do it and very proud to have beaten Sir Bobby’s record. I realise how big a deal it is to play for so long and to play so many games but it really is nothing that I think about at all. It’s something I’ll probably brag about when I’ve finished, but not now.
Read the full interview with Ryan Giggs in the March issue of Esquire, on sale now