Ryan Giggs has scored countless memorable goals in his illustrious career, both through mazy runs and outstanding technique. But he often saved some of his best for Italian opposition, terrorising Juventus in 1997 and 2003 as Manchester United established themselves in Europe. Turning defenders inside out while dribbling at pace, he could finish with either foot.

So when Gareth Bale ran riot at the San Siro against Inter Milan two weeks ago, it was impossible not to picture a younger Giggs racing past hapless defenders on the left wing. Bale’s hat-trick was not quite enough to salvage a point for Tottenham Hotspur, but it was a new high in an eye-catching start to the season for the 20-year-old. And as he drilled those three rasping strikes into the bottom corner, it was also hard to believe he was ever considered a left back rather than a left winger.

The comparisons with Giggs – a fellow Welshman – are inevitable and will surely continue. Bale followed the United man’s example in breaking the record as the youngest man to represent Wales and he will be the country’s focal point for years to come. The fact that the Spurs star has a long way to go to match Giggs’ standing in the game has not stopped the headlines appearing with growing frequency.

Furthermore, if reports are to be believed, the pair could soon be team-mates. With his ever-improving form, Bale has been linked with a move to United, either in January or the summer, which opens up the intriguing possibility of the youngster eventually replacing Giggs at Old Trafford.


United and Spurs have had their differences in the transfer market in years gone by, with the deals for Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov souring relationships, but the North Londoners are in a stronger position now and will be more hesitant to cash in one of their most valuable chips. Reaching the Champions League last season has closed the gaps somewhat between the two sides. And United are unlikely to be the only bidders, with Inter also registering interest after the youngster’s masterclass in Milan. It is not unreasonable to think that a £25M price tag could be placed on Bale.

The plot thickened on Saturday as Bale and Spurs travelled to Manchester to face United and the home fans got a glimpse of the winger’s quality. United emerged with the three points, but Bale showed his menace and went agonisingly close to a second-half equaliser. He left Old Trafford with his reputation well and truly intact.

Bale’s potential was evident back in his Southampton days and he benefited from more playing time with the club struggling in the Championship. Tottenham gambled £10M that the Welshman would develop into a star in the top flight – but until this season, there was a feeling in some quarters that Bale had in fact flopped at White Hart Lane.

Injuries and a lack of confidence made Bale a forgotten man as his fledgling career seemed to stall, but he has started the 2010/11 season like a man on a mission – and he is quickly making up for lost time. His pace and dribbling ability force full-backs to retreat and that simply allows him more space to use his wand of a left foot to deliver crosses to targets like Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko. With Aaron Lennon on the opposite flank, Tottenham have the supply lines and speed on the counter attack to beat anyone on their day.

As for United, it is no secret that Sir Alex Ferguson will have money to spend in January and Wayne Rooney is eager to see proof that United are willing to invest to keep pace with Chelsea and Manchester City. While Nani has made big improvements on the right flank, there is still a role up for grabs on the left. Giggs cannot go on forever and Ferguson is already limiting his minutes. At the moment, there are very few better candidates in European football than Bale.

It could be some time before a player ever equals the impact and medals that Giggs has enjoyed at Old Trafford. But Bale will continue to develop his game in the years ahead and it would be fitting if a blossoming young Welshman played a big part in United’s future.