Last updated : 09 January 2003 By Editor

The reaction of Ryan Giggs to criticism of his recent performances at Old Trafford — the latest jeers coming after his substitution against Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night — is an echo of Roy Keane’s lament regarding the "prawn sandwich" supporters.

Giggs’ claims that "the real fans are the ones that follow us away", pander to the popular theory that most United fans who attend matches at Old Trafford are a fickle, fair-weather lot who reside south of Watford or the Equator and travel to home games depending on the M1 roadworks or their number of air miles.

Demographic fact or fiction, it is surprising that Giggs, like Keane, should be so fragile and precious in the face of criticism, given that their excessive salaries are, in part, paid by the paying customer, locally reared, blindly faithful or not.

The answer to the present disaffection for Giggs may be that United fans, no matter where they come from, simply want to see their team win. Which against Blackburn, with the possibility of silverware beckoning in the Worthington Cup, they did not.

One of Giggs’ problems, similar to Keane in some ways, is that he has seldom been on the receiving end of a malicious tongue, either from the stands or from the media or in his more private domain. His path to fame and fortune has been relatively unblemished and, until recently, untouched by criticism and vocal disenchantment.

He has been on a pedestal at Old Trafford for more than ten years and it seems that his solution to adversity may have to be to leave, possibly for foreign shores, where even the abuse is in a tongue that will fall on deaf ears.

A crossroads for the player? Perhaps. Or perhaps Giggs should concentrate on his ball control rather than crowd control and, as in the past, let his talented feet do the talking.