Theres nothing quite like a 100 per cent record to lift the spirits! The Ryan Giggs roadshow rolls on after victory over Norwich City last weekend, with three games in seven days before the Welshman ends his brief stint as Manchester United’s interim manager. Whatever the 40-year-old’s future with the club – and a long-term role is still to be determined – it has been a period of much relief after 10 months in which David Moyes brought the club to its lowest point in 25 years. Not so under Giggs, with the interim manager rapidly heralding a period of new positivity at Old Trafford.
Giggs’ transformational work has been swift if much to do with a weight lifed from a squad that had been operating under a David Moyes-inspired cloud for much of the season. With lowly Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday, followed by Hull City on Tuesday, Giggs has a genuine opportunity to add to the rapidly growing momentum for his permanent installation as manager. United close the season at Southampton next weekend.
It remains unlikely that Giggs will be offered the manager’s job, with United still negotiating the Welshman’s role in Louis van Gaal’s prospective regime. Indeed, Giggs may be at the beginning of a fine coaching career with United after more than 23 years in the first team – or just three games from breaking lifelong ties to the club. Both options are seemingly open should the Welshman not receive a suitable offer from the club to continue in a playing or coaching capacity.
“Nothing has changed – it’s until the end of the season and we’ll chat when that’s over,” said Giggs on Friday. “My main concentration is on Sunderland tomorrow and the remaining two games.”
“I have got to decide if I want to play or not so there is no point thinking if I want to be an assistant or if I want to be a manager somewhere else. There are so many things to think about. The way I am thinking is I am enjoying it and then my concentration is on the remaining two games and then we will see what happens.
“My concentration is just on now. I’m still training and doing bits and pieces so I’m still in the frame on maybe playing in the remaining games. I’m just trying to keep myself fit and try to win every game. I might not get back into the team!”
Whatever Giggs’ future role the short-term focus remains on the pitch with United seeking a positive end to a dismissal season. The Reds face a stern test on Saturday whenever the renewed confidence in Giggs’ camp. After all, Sunderland remains desperate for points with Gus Poyet’s side escaping the bottom three only on goal difference after two victories in succession. Fixtures against Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion close out the Mackems’ season in what could yet be an escape from the drop that few predicted at the turn of the year.
Meanwhile, United may be without Wayne Rooney, who is suffering from a minor groin problem and a bug that has swept through the United camp. However, Robin van Persie has trained all week and should make the match day squad. In Rooney’s absence the Dutchman may yet start in what could become a two-way fight for one place in van Gaal’s side next season.
“A few of the lads have had a bug,” said Giggs. “Wayne has and Anders [Lindegaard] has too. Wayne also has a tight groin. You have to be careful with the bug because the immune system is down a bit but Wayne, being Wayne, wants to play. We’ll monitor it over the next 24 hours. Robin has been back training this week and has looked good. Whether tomorrow is too early, we’ll just have to see how he goes today. He has looked really good this week.”
The visitors arrive in solid form having secured a draw against Manchester City at the Etihad, followed by victories over Chelsea and Cardiff City. The haul of seven points from nine has taken the Mackems from bottom place to a position of safety with a game in hand over the club’s principal rivals for the drop.
On the pitch manager Poyet has Phil Bardsley available again after the defender completed a two-match suspension. The former Red will compete with January signing Santiago Vergini for a place in the Sunderland side at Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, Connor Wickham has finally hit a patch of form after three difficult seasons with the club. The £8 million striker has scored five goals in three games, while on-loan forward Fabio Borini has enjoyed a positive season on Wearside in a strike force that could cause United’s old guard plenty of trouble on the break.
At the back former Reds John O’Shea and Wes Brown will again start in central defence. Neither has enjoyed an injury-free campaign, nor in truth a successful one, but will surely relish one more visit to the old stomping ground – and a meeting with former team-mate Giggs.
“I have always thought that Ryan would eventually manage a team,” said Brown, who spent 14 seasons at United.
“It is under bad circumstances in the way that he has gone in, I am sure he is thriving on it and looking forward to the next few games ahead. Everything at the moment is going to be in their favour. They have got a new lease of life, they will definitely be up for the game and the crowd will as well. They are looking to next season now and we have got to drain that out of them by doing what we have done it the last couple of weeks.”
Indeed, the positivity surrounding the Giggs bandwagon will come under pressure from a Sunderland outfit that has scored eight in three games. That is to say little of the Carling Cup victory secured over United in January – just one of many low points this season.
Still, if Giggs is to secure a permanent role in van Gaal’s camp – a manager the Welshman described as having a “fantastic pedigree” on Friday – nine points from the next three will do little harm, even if the Welshman claims to be focused on the here and now. With just maybe just a touch on the future too.
“My concentration is just on managing United now. The only peace and quiet you do get is when you are on the training pitch. As soon as you’re back in the office, you have meetings, you have calls. For example this week has been planning pre-season.”
Manchester United v Sunderland, Premier League, Old Trafford, 3pm, 3 May 2014
United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidić, Evra; Januzaj, Fletcher, Carrick, Kagawa; Mata; Welbeck
Sunderland (4-5-1): Mannone; Vergini, Brown, O’Shea, Alonso; Johnson, Larsson, Cattermole, Colback, Borini; Wickham
United: Lindegaard, Büttner, Evans, Smalling, Cleverley, Fellaini, Valencia, Nani, Young, Hernández, van Persie
Sunderland: Ustari, Bardsley, Celustka, Dossena, Roberge, Ba, Bridcutt, Cabral, Gardner, Giaccherini, Mavrias, Altidore, Moberg-Karlsson, Scocco.
Head to Head
United 62 Draw 36 Sunderland 40
Referee: Howard Webb
Assistants: D Cann, S Massey
Fourth Official: A Marriner
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