Snake in the grass? Ryan Giggs’ attempted management coup
Ryan Giggs’ future is one of Manchester United’s biggest enigmas – and there are plenty of questions surrounding England’s falling giant. The Red Devils career-man came through United’s academy to become a playing legend, one of the most famous figures to ever walk out at Old Trafford. So, with such a storied history, what is Giggs’ next move?
Giggs became part of the backroom staff during the failed David Moyes era – a 10-month period that remains an unmitigated disaster. Somehow free from blame, in one of the greatest farces in modern football history, Giggs was promoted on retirement to become Louis van Gaal’s assistant, seemingly at the club’s insistence, and despite holding little coaching experience.
The result is that the Welshman has played a leading role in not one but two failed regimes. Indeed, there is a school of thought that says Giggs has enjoyed a significant say in what has happened over the past three years of failure. Whether supporters care to admit it, the Welshman cannot be free from of blame for United’s fall.
Yet, it is Giggs who is being championed by some as the next manager of England’s greatest club. List the names that have publicly, or privately, trumpeted his appointment: Paul Scholes, Dwight Yorke, Lee Sharpe, Nemanja Vidic, Bryan Robson, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton. While neither Ferguson nor Charlton have gone public, it is clear that behind the scenes the pair is working both the media and club hierarchy in favour of the former winger.
Is is no coincidence that the noise emanating from Giggs’ camp grows louder with each terrible result. Nor was it a surprise that, once again, Giggs performed another act of defiance when wandering down the touchline late in the second leg of the Europa League aggregate defeat to Liverpool.
Of course, some sections of United’s fanbase believe this act alone is qualification for the main job, although the reality is that the Welshman looked just as confused and helpless as his boss did in the stands. After all, if standing on the touchline bellowing instruction is a prerequisite for the manager’s position, then there are many more qualified for the job.
"Is is no coincidence Giggs’ camp grows louder with each terrible result. Nor was it a surprise that Giggs performed another act of defiance in wandering down the touchline during United’s defeat to Liverpool."
Ultimately, Giggs’ grandstanding is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, let alone a serious factor in management or the night’s disappointing result. The critical skills in management – generating positive results – are not those that Giggs or Van Gaal currently possess, although the pair is clearly on different career trajectories.
The question of Giggs’ future is pertinent though as there have been rumours that the United winger is willing to try his hand elsewhere if he doesn’t land the big job. For the moment that scenario appears to be more part of the chess game than a genuine threat. If the Welshman wanted to try for another managerial position he could have done so already. He hasn’t – and it is clear that Giggs wants the top job.
Many supporters wonder why Van Gaal hasn’t been given his marching orders already, although José Mourinho’s apparent reluctance to take a job mid-season is perhaps at the core. After all, the Portuguese is unlikely to want to be associated with the shambolic way the club is being run this season. Giggs, as the likely stand-in, has seemingly made it clear that he doesn’t want the job on a part-time basis.
Meanwhile, team Giggs is working the angles. Scholes has been in Giggs’ corner the whole time, for obvious reasons, using his prominent role on BT Sport to undermine Van Gaal’s position. This is no surprise, considering the pair’s relationship as long-time teammates, close friends and business associates.
Behind the scenes the power struggle continues – just one factor in the continuing delay in clarifying speculation that surrounds the managerial post at Old Trafford. There is a divide between Ed Woodward and the Glazers in one camp, and the others – including Ferguson, Charlton and David Gill – in another. Some want Mourinho’s brand of success to drag United from its knees; others shy away from the Portuguese’s flaws and want Giggs’ more traditional brand.
There are, of course, plenty in United’s support that cannot countenance the thought of Giggs undermining his immediate boss, nor the Welshman’s camp politicking for their favourite son. Indeed, some will take offence at the very thought.
The observation is no criticism of the player, whose on-the-field achievements cannot be denied. It is, however, an indictment of the man who must take his share of the blame for the past three years. Blame in the context of Giggs’ desire to take on the position that he has wanted for so long.
Yet, the question of whether the club, which is so badly in limbo, can afford to take a chance on the man who might already be part of a systemic problem is a pertinent one.