Different Class

Yaya Toure’s return from the African Nations Tournament back into the Manchester City side has coincided with them getting back into the attacking form they showed at the start of the season. Although it is not a coincidence. A leader in the middle of the park, and the ability to play in either an attacking or defensive role, he gives them an extra confidence, and must be a leading contender for Player of the Season.

However, yesterday, it was the Player of the Premier League who may have made the most important contribution in the League this weekend. Ryan Giggs’ late winner at Carrrow Road yesterday kept Manchester United in title contention, with a total of 61 points, two points of the top, and with a seemingly greater total than the sum of their parts. When they have needed to, United have ground out results this season, going into the weekend with the most clean sheets in the division, and as Giggs showed yesterday, they still have class in the final third to win tight games.

His goal yesterday was result of fantastic movement, and it is his continual intelligent play is why he is still a key player in a side that has now challenged for the title for twenty-one consecutive seasons, in which he has been a constant. In his early days it was his ability to dribble with pace to devastating effect that took the eye, with an excellent individual goal in a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane in 1992 still one of his favorites. His wand of a left foot was also a feature, and his cracking free-kick against Blackburn Rovers the night United celebrated their first title in 26 years at the end of that season, also still memorable.

Now, alongside Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes, he is in a central midfield trio that are only matched in England by Scott Parker, Luka Modric and Rafa Van Der Vaart, the first two of whom were Tottenham’s best players in a first-half of a North London Derby yesterday where they were outnumbered in the middle, with Van Der Vaart starting on the bench. With Parker unjustly picking up a booking for a clean tackle which subsequently led to a sending off, he will now not face United next week, in what promised to be a great midfield battle.

Giggs, a regular in United’s big games is almost certain to play. Yesterday was his 900th game in his 21st season at the club in which he has won 12 League Titles, 4 FA Cups and played in four European Cup Finals, of which he has won two. As he said a few years ago, when he gave George Weir as an example of a player who never had the opportunity to dominate on an international stage, you can be a World Class player based primarily on club achievements.

His goal in extra-time at Villa Park against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup Semi-Final, when his club were down to ten men and under the cosh, is one of the great goals of all-time. And yesterday was a reminder he is still a match-winner.