Giggs’ endurance offers shot at the top job

April 26, 2014 Tags: Opinion 14 comments
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“Tearing them apart since 1991,” declares the banner adorning Stretford End’s upper tier. It feels longer such is the institution that Ryan Giggs has become. Willowy kid, to world-class winger, midfield schemer and now manager – it has been an evolving journey in the 23 years since Giggs made his Manchester United debut. Add time spent with the academy and the Welshman has been associated with United man and boy for almost three-quarters of his life; synonymous with the soul of the club he knows inside and out.

This is the essence of supporters’ faith in Giggs the interim manager – a role for which few know whether he is truly equipped. It matters not, of course. Not during the darkest period at Old Trafford for more than two decades; especially not when Giggs comes as a package with coaches Nicky Butt, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes.

Yet, it is the Welshman who has emerged as the leader from the ‘Class of ‘92’ – an alpha among men who have known little other than United’s success. Dressing room spokesperson, mutinous ring leader – take your pick – Giggs is a man comfortable in his own skin. It is an observation that draws a stark contrast to now former United boss David Moyes.

It is Giggs the manager who leads United out for Saturday evening’s fixture with Norwich City – the start of a temporary assignment that comes with no guarantee of long-term success. It is, though, a test Giggs thoroughly relishes – supporters instantly sense the divergence with Moyes, a man engulfed in fear.

“When Ed Woodward asked me to look after the team for the remaining four games I had no hesitation in saying yes,” Giggs told MUTV.

“It’s the proudest moment of my life. I’ve supported Manchester United all my life, it’s been the biggest part of my life since I was 14 when I signed schoolboy forms. I’m proud, happy, a little bit nervous but just like I am as a player I can’t wait for the game on Saturday.”

There has been little doubt – at least not for more than half a decade – that Giggs has sought to take on United’s hot-seat. UEFA Coaching badges A, B, and Pro have been achieved and the 40-year-old has emerged as a natural leader that was rarely evident in Giggs the flying kid.

Indeed, there is a remarkable scene in Ben Turner’s “The Class of ‘92” in which the Neville brothers, Scholes, Butt and David Beckham play a subservient role to Giggs over dinner. Giggs’ razor-sharp dry wit emerges with alacrity, stretching to mocking the younger Neville’s protestation at the considerable dressing room high jinks. This is a confident, mature Giggs, no longer the kid fearful of Sir Alex Ferguson’s detection on a rare night out.

He is yet to shirk the political dimensions of leadership either. Behinds the scenes Giggs has smartly maneuvered the ’92 group to take over from Moyes – a period in which the Welshman distanced himself from the former Everton manager at an ideal moment.

“Nicky was with the Reserves so I asked him to come up and help with the first team which he was more than happy to do,” said Giggs on Friday.

“Then I phoned Scholesy because I know how much the club means to these people. They feel the same way I do about the club and I know in the short space of time we have they’ll give it everything to make it a success and hopefully end what has been a frustrating season on a high.”

The temporary situation lasts barely a month, but there appears little doubt that Giggs has a long-term strategy. Neither the Welshman’s decision to take a coaching role under Moyes, nor to create distance, deviates from the plan.

Still, Giggs will not be considered for the permanent role during United’s search for a new manager even if the Reds season ends on a positive note. Not unless the board run out of alternatives. With little coaching experience to his name, there is little reason for Giggs to expect another outcome. After the failure in appointing Moyes there is no appetite to experiment during a period of considerable rebuilding.

But there is also widespread recognition that the former winger is not far from the role – perhaps United’s next manager but one. It is an observation that also begs a question about the job Giggs is to be offered in the new regime. While Moyes offered the player-coach seemingly limited influence in United’s set up it appears likely Louis van Gaal, if appointed, is prepared to work within an established structure – as the Dutchman enjoyed at Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

The model at Real Madrid where Carlo Ancelotti – another potential United appointee – is mentor to assistant Zinedine Zidane is perhaps closest to Giggs’ potential role in a new regime. The Frenchman is widely assumed to be head coach in waiting at Santiago Bernabéu.

Whomever is finally appointed it is clear that United cannot again allow a new permanent manager to rip out established structures and sack long-time United employees. If the Class of ’92 is not here to stay is come capacity it will be an error to compound last summer’s.

First, however, there is the short-term, where Giggs is charged with revitalising the end to United’s season in matches against Norwich, Sunderland, Hull City and Southampton. More than points alone, there is demand to revive the kind of attacking, fluid, football largely absent under Moyes.

Giggs certainly talks a good game.

“My philosophy is the Manchester United philosophy. I want players to play with passion, speed, tempo, to be brave, with imagination – all the things that are expected of a Manchester United player,” said Giggs on Friday.

“I want to see goals, tackles, players taking players on and getting the crowd up. I want the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player. I’ll tell the players just to try to enjoy yourself, express yourself. I just want them to enjoy themselves and give the fans something to smile about in the remaining four games.”

In the short-term the rallying call will surely transform United’s performances, with players now fully liberated from Moyes’ negativity. But Giggs will need to quickly adapt to being the man in charge, creating a little separation between interim manager and his players, even if this role is a very different from the long-term rebuilding job now required at Old Trafford. There is little evidence, yet, that Giggs has the make-up to manage that process, despite his deep-seated United roots.

“I think that he is the one man they should go to, really,” said Ferguson this week.

“He’s got 20-odd years of experience at Manchester United. He’s gone through the gamut of emotions at the club – he’s experienced all the highs and lows. He knows exactly what’s needed to be a United player and I was so pleased he brought Paul Scholes back in, and Nicky Butt of course. You have got the right combinations there, there’s no doubt about that.”

Over the longer piece, whether Giggs cuts his managerial teeth at Old Trafford or elsewhere, leadership attaches more risk to his reputation than at any time in the past two decades.

His legend as a player is sealed, history suggests Giggs failure as a manager is more likely than success. After all, the past 20 years has proffered Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Bryan Robson, and Paul Ince – Ferguson’s former players whom have enjoyed very mixed success in management.

For the moment Giggs has four games that he’ll never forget. One more step in a legend’s journey.


twsited blood - April 26, 2014 Reply

GO Giggsy! Just hope the “Moyes is gone” euphoria doesn’t lead to a decision to hire him long term,. This would be a disservice to both Ryan’s development as a coach/manager and to the Club. Ed, you make a good point with the Zidane/Giggs comparisons as long term club servant cum new manager. Much more apt than the Giggs/Guardiola comparisons I’ve been hearing lately. The experiences of the 2 men at the same stage of their careers is not even close. Can Ryan eventually become a Guardiola? Sure. But he’s not the finished article yet…..

Denton Davey - April 26, 2014 Reply

“there is also widespread recognition that the former winger is not far from the role – perhaps United’s next manager but one.”

Not in my view – I’d prefer to see Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer the ‘next but one”.

OGS has significantly more experience – with UTD’s reserves and then at home in Norway where he guided Molde to unexpected heights. He might have made a rod-for-his-own-back by taking the Cardiff job under difficult circumstances so if he can get them out of relegation and into mid-table contention next year then that has to count in his favour.

Giggs, meanwhile, has a great playing resume – remember, it’s still Gerrard ZERO, Giggs 13 ! – but what more can he offer ? Maybe two/three years alongside a crusty old bugger like Van Gaal might teach him some new tricks. But not now. However, even if the board listens to SAF – again ????? – he can’t be worse than TheChosenOne.

MJ - April 26, 2014 Reply

I’m also of the opinion that it is too early for Giggs to take over, not that I wouldn’t love to see him in the hotseat, but simply because I don’t dare to picture a scenario in which MAN UTD have to sack RYAN GIGGS. Let him learn a bit from Van Gaal, coach the reserves, coach another Premiership team, whatever. Just don’t burn him.

MJ - April 26, 2014 Reply

Also, a nice little story about Van Gaal: in 2008, Bayern, fresh from winning the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal, appointed Jürgen Klinsmann, a man who had seemingly worked wonders with Germany at the world cup two years previously. It never worked out though. They exited the champions league at the quarter final stage against the then-best team in Europe, getting hammered 4-0 in the first leg at Camp Nou (bell already ringing?). They were convincingly beaten to the Bundesliga title by Wolfsburg (!). That season, I visited the Allianz Arena twice. In the one game, they threw away a 3-1 lead in the final 5 minutes or so against Bochum, a team then flirting with relegation (relegated in the meantime), drawing 3-3. In the other, they lost 0-1 to Schalke, which incidentally was Klinsi’s last game in charge. In came Heynckes for the last few games of the season, the following summer saw Van Gaal arrive. At the end of that season, they had reclaimed their double and also reached the CL-final, eliminating us in the process.

Vin - April 26, 2014 Reply

Surprising no ones suggested Heynckes .. He’d be a great short term fix.

Anthony Kennedy - April 26, 2014 Reply
Denton Davey - April 26, 2014 Reply

Great result today – Spur’s win which keeps UTD out of the EuropaLeague.

Denton Davey - April 28, 2014 Reply

Even better result on Sunday – it’s still Gerrard ZERO, Giggs 13.

Subterranean Steve - April 28, 2014 Reply

I actually think that Van Gaal is a bit long in the tooth. Modern management is a young man’s game

I think United would benefit from the coaching team of the class of ’92 with Giggs at the helm rather than a sixty two year old turning up and looking for assistants.

Denton Davey - April 28, 2014 Reply

Steve: ” United would benefit from the coaching team of the class of ’92″

Gotta disagree – what UTD need is a clean break from Fergy AND his “fledglings”.

Julian - April 29, 2014 Reply

I think that’s right. However the way the club are going, presumably keeping LVG waiting in the hope, probably forlorn, that they might get Ancelotti if he’s fired by Real, we may very well end up with Giggs and co on a permanent basis.

MS Assefa - April 28, 2014 Reply

What is wrong with us as Man Utd fans? Klopp has said three times in a week he doesnot WANT the job. But still most wish him to be manager.

Giggs has never been proven as a manage but the English media have him as Guardiolas equivalent. So let us calm down and stop this make him manager hysteria. This is the same xenophobic logic that got Moyes the job he didnt earn and the support of the fans he didnt deserve. Let us not also forget Moyes won his first EPL match 4-1 also.

Then there if SAFs public backing of Giggs. Why didnt he choose him last year if he taught he was the perfect man for the job? Why now? I think it is becoming clear the Fergie doesnt want to lose control and is risking the clubs future so that he still has power. “Please, SAF retreat into the calm retired life before you completly shatter what is left of your dignity.” Thats what any good friend shuld say to the old man at this moment.

geoff - April 30, 2014 Reply

You right mate, man united is trying to create a mini-fergy which won’t work because fergy is the greatest we will ever have. The Moyes project based on his similarities with sir alex’s longevity,work ethic & loyalty was an embarrassment. We have to remember that when Fergy came there’s was no plan of making him the next sir matt. We let him to do his thing until he got it right.

geoff - April 30, 2014 Reply

I think there seems to be a growing campaign by the British press to get Giggs to be the manager next season. I think the board needs to be careful and should not be swayed by public sentiment. Imagine if Robbo had just quit football. I’m sure people would have liked him to be the manager. And you know how that turned out for him. Like Fergie said in the book, “most great players don’t make great managers”. I think it would be in Giggsy’ s interest to wait until someone experienced like Van Gaal comes in and lay a stronger foundation.

One thing I fear most as a Utd fan is that Fergie will wield his power with his Class Of 92 (including Gary as a pundit for sky acting as proxy). Some may think this would be great idea but the club would never move forward. We would be appointing managers & players based on their good relations with the class of 92 & sir alex’s preferences.

Am not at all opposed to the class of 92. They brought joy to all of us & in fact they were the first united team i found when i started watching football in the mid 90’s. All am saying is they should earn their positions through merit. They should accept the positions given by the new manager & should learn from him instead of forcing their way through media hysteria & fans apathy.

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