Old Trafford will see Ryan Giggs running down the wing once again – as dramatic news broke Friday morning that the winger is to copy Paul Scholes and come out of retirement. The Welsh Wizard, whom Sir Alex Ferguson memorably described as a “cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind,” is putting his boots back on as part of manager Louis van Gaal’s desperate final attempt to qualify for the Champions League.
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?
Hey, I heard René Meulensteen was on the radio the other day, hope he didn’t fall off. Ba-dum-tish!
Sorry. Was he standing on some monstrously big boom box? Tell you what don’t quit your day job. Read More
“He’s got incredible energy and very importantly he likes attacking football.” It was the kind of off-the-cuff boast that Manchester United’s executive vice chairman has become known for. Summer 2014, brimming with the kind of bravado inspired by victory, Woodward added another supposed truism to his unveiling of a new manager secured: that Louis van Gaal’s style would bring “the kind of football Manchester United fans love.” That attacking football is “part of our DNA.” Woodward got only one part of the story correct. Read More
“¡Siempre negativo, nunca positivo!,” posited Louis van Gaal in the face of critical Spanish press during his first spell at Barcelona. Always negative, never positive. It was a fantastic rant. Yet, they were words that would come to haunt Van Gaal, with critics using the phrase to sum up the Barcelona’s style under the Dutchman’s watch. Sound familiar?
Van Gaal’s Manchester United side isn’t adventurous either and, if truth be told, rather dull to watch. At the same time there appears to be an efficiency and steel that makes United, more often than not, difficult to beat. The contemporary United model, as Paul Scholes noted, isn’t one opponents like to face, but neither is it a team that the former midfielder would like to play in either.
There’s a disconnect. Despite the side lying two points off the top and well placed to advance in the Champions League there’s an uncertain feeling at the club. Is this side about to take off or one that is bound to sputter out and fall away? Given the inconsistent way United has performed during Van Gaal’s tenure it’s a question with an uncertain answer.
On the surface, United is a team of contradictions. The team averages just 10.25 shots-per-game, with only Stoke City, Sunderland, Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion making fewer attempts. Yet, Van Gaal’s team also possesses the best conversion rate in the Premier League at 20 per cent.
The side has not set the league alight, yet is placed fourth just two points off the Premier League summit. The team has not conceded a goal in 555 minutes, and though there is a defensive solidity, it is prone to heart-in-the-mouth moments.
The club is willing to spend big, but despite fears that it is ignoring youth development and “losing its soul,” Van Gaal found space to include Axel Tuanzebe in the match-day squad against Crystal Palace, gave Cameron Borthwick-Jackson a début at Old Trafford, while establishing Jesse Lingard in the first team. Throw Paddy McNair, Andreas Pereira and Tyler Blackett into the mix, and it seems that the notion of the Dutchman ripping out the club’s heart is fanciful.
But what is Van Gaal’s end game? After all, unless there’s a change of heart, the Dutchman will leave for his holiday-home “paradise” in Portugal once his contract expires at the end of next season. The three-year contract doesn’t appear to suggest a grand vision and, if anything, Van Gaal’s playing model suggests a focus is on the short-term – Champions League qualification and, with luck, a trophy.
Whether by accident or design the real fruits of Van Gaal’s influence may only be felt years after he has left the club. It’s already a bizarre set of circumstances – one that could potentially see two United managers retire, with a sacking sandwiched between for good measure. And given the Dutchman’s ego, it is doubtful that he wants to be known as the man who did little more at Old Trafford than stop the rot. It’s no kind of legacy.
Yet, history also suggests that the former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AZ Alkmaar boss would revel in the glory of setting the club on the path to another trophy-laden era. After all, Van Gaal managed to credit himself for the Netherland’s shoot-out defeat to Argentina in last year’s World Cup semi-final by claiming that he taught the United number two, Sergio Romero, how to save penalties.
The Iron Tulip has not been a shrinking violet when it’s come to reshaping the team either. After two summers worth of transfer activity he has fashioned a squad in his own image and brought down the average age of United’s playing staff to about 25-years-old.
A title challenge isn’t beyond the current squad, but the remodelling has one eye on the future. Indeed, Van Gaal admitted that the purchase of Anthony Martial was effectively one made for Ryan Giggs, with the Welshman tipped by the Dutchman to take over the Old Trafford hot seat in 2017.
In a sense van Gaal has done much of the dirty work by removing big name players like Robin van Persie, selling high earners such as Nani, and finding new homes for Anderson and Bebé. There is still the issue of a certain under-performing Scouser, but perhaps Van Gaal can’t have all the fun.
Then there’s the player legacy. Van Gaal claims that he laid the foundation for Barcelona and Bayern Munich to develop, among others, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller. It is a reputation for development built on the 1995 Champions League winning Ajax side, which boasted the talents of Edwin van der Sar, Danny Blind, the de Boer twins, Marc Overmars, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Jari Litmanen.
At United Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw – before his unfortunate injury – are turning into high-quality players, while the emergence of Lingard and Martial’s excellence, point to a bright future.
Van Gaal’s successor is in an intriguing proposition. Giggs is the man he believes will take over the Old Trafford hot seat and, if van Gaal’s words mean anything, preparation for the next chapter is well under way. Van Gaal is said to be impressed by Giggs’ attention to detail. The former winger prepares presentations about United’s forthcoming opponents, for example, and then discusses it with the playing staff after the Dutch boss vets it.
Giggs is in the unique situation of having played most of his career under Sir Alex Ferguson, experienced first hand the failure of David Moyes, and now is learning his trade under Van Gaal’s tutelage. Success, turmoil, and the painful task of rebuilding, may turn out more valuable than any turn at a lower league club.
Again van Gaal is doing the dirty work, combatting a critical press, and bearing the brunt of supporters’ ire – deservedly on many occasions – for United’s less than impressive performances. The handbrake is on and it may be his successor’s role to release it.
If Ed Woodward and the Glazer family follows the script and appoints Giggs the hope is that he turns out to be as successful as some of van Gaal’s other protégés, including Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho.
So is this the end game? Van Gaal knows that he’s coming to the end of his coaching career. The Dutchman’s final challenge may not only be to bring trophies back to United, but to set the club up for a brighter future, with Giggs at the helm reaping the fruits of the Dutchman’s labour.
In this there is a whiff of long-term planning. If it comes off then maybe, in a few years time, Van Gaal will be relaxing in ‘paradise’ enjoying a glass of port, as United go marching on, safe in the knowledge that he was the architect of the post-Fergie rebirth.
Sources: Footstats, Opta
Manchester United’s tepid 1-0 loss to Sunderland last weekend took the wind out of the sails of those advocating for Ryan Giggs’ appointment as permanent manager at Old Trafford, even if the Welshman’s team followed up with a fine win over Hull City. After all, David Moyes’ disastrous tenure has dampened United fans’ appetite for experiment, despite the lure of the “class of ’92”.
Still, as things stand, prospective appointment Louis van Gaal is simply a better choice for the job than Giggs. The argument for the Welshman revolves around the idea that Giggs “understands” United and its philosophy, but one can be successful without being in tune with the club in modern football.
Whatever the philosophy, players must eventually deliver it on the pitch, and a club’s youth system, no matter how successful, cannot produce the entire first team squad. In this sense, a club’s performance is bound by finance rather than the manager alone – even if it is a coach of van Gaal’s experience. The Dutchman has won 15 major trophies with culturally unique clubs such as Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
There are exceptions to this rule – as Gary Neville has argued. Some, including Pep Guardiola, have taken to their jobs with great gusto. Jurgen Klopp spent his entire playing career at Mainz before managing the club. Manuel Pellegrini, another one club man cum manager, ended up relegating Universidad de Chile. It begs the question: was Anders Lindegaard sincere or sycophantic in branding Giggs the “next Guardiola?”
We can look at a range of data to find an answer. First, we look at the top 25 clubs by UEFA coefficients – to see if managers’ playing career has any influence on their managerial performance.
It is clear, above, that there is little relationship between length or quality of playing career and that as manager. Andre Villas-Boas has built a successful coaching career despite having never actually played professionally. And despite the popular conception that good players are poor coaches Atlético Madrid’s Diego Simeone and Paris Saint-Germain’s Laurent Blanc rank very highly in terms of winning ratio.
Taking the tenuously relevant trend as guide, David Moyes had under-performed at United, while Guardiola is doing better than expected given his playing background. Essentially, a top 25 manager must produce at least a 59 per cent win ratio – and given this analysis Giggs’ stellar Old Trafford background is expected to produce a 60 per cent winning percentage over a coaching career. It would be enough to qualify for the Champions League.
To be more accurate in assessing Giggs, however, we cannot simply compare the United legend to established managers and must consider natural talent. It is possible that the “Welsh wizard” is an innately gifted manager who will belie his callowness should he be appointed?
Above is a comparison of managerial experience – number of clubs managed and number of years of training before a first managerial post – and win rate. Again, there seems to be little correlation, although most managers lie in the middle, suggesting that there is a Gladwellian amount of experience required to fulfill a manager’s potential. This perhaps explains why Clarence Seedorf, a player as decorated as any, is doing poorly at AC Milan this season, while Simeone and Blanc, who are both much more experienced managers, are considered among the best in Europe.
Given this analysis Guardiola’s relatively rapid success suggests a possibility of genius – a category in which Giggs could possibly reside. There are five managers who hold a similar career trajectory as the United caretaker boss:
- Seedorf – spent a significant amount of time at AC Milan then became manager
- Moyes – player/manager at Preston North End then made permanent
- Guardiola – a long history with Barcelona – became manager after a year of apprenticeship at Barcelona B
- Klopp – one club man at Mainz then took over the manager’s job
- Pellegrini – 0ne club man at Universidad then took over the manager’s job
First job win ratio (%) / Career win ratio (%):
- Seedorf – 50/50 (on his first job)
- Moyes – 48/45
- Guardiola – 67/73
- Klopp – 40/49
- Pellegrini – 33/50
Indeed, Guardiola took to managing immediately, while Moyes regressed despite moving up a division with Everton and then taking over the reigning champions in United. Pellegrini, on the other hand, first won a trophy in 1994 – six years after his first job. The Manchester City manager was a slow starter. So is Giggs a ‘Guardiola’ or a ‘Pellegrini’.
Above, we look at number of playing appearances for the manager’s first club and see whether that knowledge had any role in the subsequent winning ratio. Guardiola is a clear outlier and there is a downward trend with Guardiola removed. This is bad news for Giggs’ supporters, although it does not answer the question: what makes Guardiola special?
Above, the horizontal axis charts the number of countries in which each manager has played prior to taking his first job. Guardiola had played in three continents before taking over at Barça B. The Spaniard, along with Villas-Boas and Carlo Ancelotti – who have also played/managed in four countries – form the top three in terms of win ratio at their current club.
The number of countries each has worked in has the strongest relationship yet to managerial success. In fact this data suggests that to break the 70 per cent win ratio mark in a top European club, a manager needs to have been to at least four countries.
The advantage of being cosmopolitan is obvious – exposure to diverse football cultures can only help a manager’s knowledge. This observation strikes close to home: Sir Alex Ferguson’s ex-players have yet to distinguish themselves as managers, with Mark Hughes of Stoke City the best of mediocre bunch. Is it a coincidence that the former United striker has Barcelona and Bayern on his resumé?
This is more a plausible argument than ‘proper’ statistical research, yet the conclusion also makes sense. An English player might have his horizon broadened by moving to the Eredivisie and being taught 4-3-3, for example. An expatriate footballer will also have to cope with a new culture and language – surely players pick up pearls of wisdom as they wander the globe. With United in peril, van Gaal will surely be appointed to steady the ship. Giggs might benefit from a voyage or two himself.
A brief note on methodology:
1) All categories are weighted equally
2) Each figure has been adjusted relative to the ‘best’ in each category
3) Assumptions dictating linear regression have not been held strict – 25 managers should be enough in deriving general conclusions
4) In case of a caretaker manager the pervious permanent coach’s figures have been used
The “1992 Committee” – as fanzine Red Issue recently dubbed Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville – scored something of a victory when David Moyes was dismissed as Manchester United manager last Tuesday. It is not that the quartet had actively sought the Scot’s removal, although there has not been word of protest as Moyes left Old Trafford, but that Giggs so smartly maneuvered his group into position to take over. Indeed, such has been the fever greeting the Welshman’s appointment as interim manager this week that there is a new question – a key one at that: what role does Giggs and his ‘Committee’ take in a new, possibly Dutch, regime?
After all, Giggs may have been in the job only a week, but there has been a sense of genuine gravitas each day of the Welshman’s short reign. Giggs has demonstrated far greater poise in seven days, in fact, than Moyes had any point during 10 months in charge. The interim manager’s positivity in front of the press last week was then reflect in a decisive team selection for United’s victory over Norwich City at Old Trafford, and sensible in-game changes to ram home the Reds’ advantage.
Yet, while Giggs has proven to be a leader, his managerial qualities remain an enigma. There is little substance to a bandwagon that is rapidly gaining momentum. While Giggs has history and personality, there is little else on which to prop appointment to one of the world’s top jobs.
Still, the ease with which Giggs has slipped into Sir Alex Ferguson’s shoes is underlined by the glowing references offered by senior voices in and around the club. Giggs, said Wayne Rooney, has “all the credentials” to take over full time. Anders Lindegaard went further, comparing his team-mate to Pep Guardiola. Gary Neville outright called for the Welshman to be offered the job.
It seems unlikely Giggs’ ample fanbase will be rewarded though, with United privately unwilling to countenance a risky appointment after the damaging Moyes experiment. Yet, there is little doubt Ed Woodward and the Glazers are desperate to keep the 40-year-old former winger in some capacity – perhaps even to breaking point as a deal with manager-in-waiting Louis van Gaal is thrashed out.
It provokes an observation: if United fail to offer Giggs the manager’s job outright, could the Welshman bring ‘a lot of heat at the bottom of the ticket’ in an assistant’s role? It is a thesis bastardised from Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, but appropriate nonetheless given Giggs’ ample demonstration of political nous. So much that there is much weight to the belief that van Gaal may not want Giggs involved in a material way.
Indeed, the role of 1992’s cohort is perhaps central to ongoing negotiations with the Dutchman. van Gaal is keen to bring Danny Blind, Patrick Kluivert and a substantial Dutch entourage to Old Trafford; United’s executives remain resolute that a link between management and the Reds’ rich history is maintained.
This is in part a lesson from Moyes’ disastrous era, when the Scot replaced much of United’s coaching team with a quartet of colleagues from Everton – a move that precipitated damaging splits within the club. It is also commercial reality, with the ’92 group marketable in a fashion van Gaal’s team is not.
Still, Giggs’ candidature holds little more than sentiment at this point. He may have spent 25 years under Ferguson’s tutelage, but there is no team-building experience, nor work undertaken in the transfer market, to say little of a tactical outlook of which few have any real knowledge. The argument that a summer of significant rebuilding should be pushed through by a novice is as open to a charge of naivety as Giggs is raw.
These are solid doubts amid the emotion that Giggs’ promotion fosters. Yet, those prominent voices are ready to look beyond the coldly rational to a less prosaic outcome.
“What we have seen in the first week has been more than convincing,” wrote Lindegaard this week.
“The similarities with Sir Alex Ferguson are striking. Some would question whether you can go from being a team-mate one day to a manager the next. Normally I would have reservations, but in the case of Giggs it is different.
“His latest speech, before the team went onto the pitch for the Norwich game, made my hairs stand on end in a way that I have only ever experienced from Sir Alex Ferguson: Do not disappoint the fans!”
Neville went further still, first calling for the installation of a “British” manager at Old Trafford, and then naming Giggs as his preferred choice. Experienced or not, the bandwagon is rolling strongly in the Welshman’s favour and Giggs would not hesitate in accepting an unlikely call.
“Let him have two or three more games to see whether he can bed in and be given that role,” said Neville.
“Ryan hasn’t got experience but he knows the club. There’s the idea that Van Gaal has massive experience, but doesn’t know the Premier League. The owners want an experienced hand, but I personally would like to see a British manager be appointed.
“There’s the idea of managers who have one or two good seasons like Jose Mourinho. It worked for Chelsea and then Andre Villas-Boas didn’t. Ryan’s got no experience but then is Van Gaal going to work? We don’t know.”
Despite van Gaal now being rated as the odds-on favourite to secure a three year deal the club is reportedly open to other candidates. The due diligence process is undoubtedly sensible whatever the dearth of available candidates this summer.
With Mourinho tied to Chelsea, Guardiola unlikely to leave Bayern Munich and Carlo Anchelotti now safe at Real Madrid, United’s options have narrowed. Atlético Madrid’s Champions League final coach Diego Simeone and Antonio Conte – three-time Serie A winner with Juventus – are high-quality, if unlikely alternatives.
The smart money remains on the Dutchman, although he might not be available until late July or early August when Holland head home from this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Moreover, van Gaal’s intermediaries have made it clear that the 62-year-old is entirely focused on the national team from 7 May onwards. In this there is another problem for Woodward to solve: how United is to be highly active in the transfer market without a coach in place.
For the moment this is of little concern to Giggs, interim manager. But if negotiations with van Gaal break down the Welshman and his Committee will be ready to step in once again.
The king is dead. Long live the king.
David Moyes was rarely in total control during 10 chaotic months in charge at Manchester United. Ryan Giggs, it turns out, very much was. Still, all good things come to an end and the period of rejoicing over the 50-year-old Scot’s dismissal ended on Saturday when Giggs led United out at Old Trafford to rapturous applause. “The end of an error,” said the banner. The beginning of a new era.
However much Old Trafford enjoyed Giggs’ managerial bow it appears unlikely that the 40-year-old winger, who is still on the playing staff until June, will be offered the job permanently. At least not unless four positive results in the next two weeks increases the popular clamour for a decision in Giggs’ favour to fever pitch.
Instead, Dutch veteran Louis van Gaal is the bookmakers’ favourite to land the job, with informal talks having already taken place between the parties. Other potential appointees include Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancellotti, and Juventus’ Antonio Conte. There is little chance that Jose Mourinho, rejected by United’s board last spring, will head north this time around, while Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have seemingly ruled themselves out of contention.
“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.
“Success is tattooed right across the club badge,” said David Moyes in his first press conference as Manchester United manager. It was a nice line from the coach who said almost all the right things in facing the world’s press at Old Trafford on Friday. Yet, the fascination with Moyes first presser was surely eclipsed this week by Ryan Giggs’ promotion to the coaching staff. The question now asked: is Giggs United’s manager-in-waiting taking baby steps on the road to Old Trafford’s hotseat?
More than 20 years a United player – a quarter century since Ryan Wilson first signed schoolboy forms – Giggs senior began the next phase of his career this week by taking a training session at Carrington alongside the returning Phil Neville.
Giggs’ promotion, together with Neville and Nicky Butt, ensures that somewhere in the corner of M16 United’s soul remains amid the rampant Evertonisation of the club this summer. Paul Scholes will make it four from the ‘class of 92′ cohort to take a coaching role at some point in the coming months.
The Welshman’s integration into the coaching staff provides something of a counter-balance to Moyes’ promotion of three ex-Everton staffers onto the United payroll. It is perhaps the Scot’s smartest move to date. After all, it is little secret that the Welshman is United’s ‘manager in the dressing room’.
“I’m delighted that Ryan has accepted the chance to become player/coach,” said Moyes this week.
“I felt the right person was Ryan Giggs and he has been great. He has been on his Uefa pro licence course – and after two days you can see how incredible a footballer he is – he is taking steps forward and to get him and Phil Neville together is great.
“His career is an example to any aspiring young player and I’m sure that both he and the players will benefit from his new role.”
More than Giggs’ coaching qualities, if anybody can ease the new manager’s transition into Old Trafford then it is surely United’s 22-season veteran. Indeed, Giggs ended the day at just 16/1 to become the next United manager despite Moyes’ six-year contract – the latest in a very long line of former Sir Alex Ferguson proteges to take to coaching.
There seems an air of destiny. One suspects that rather like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Giggs might reach managerial heights that Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes and Paul Ince have not.
Meanwhile, Neville’s appointment as a coach also brings continuity where Moyes’ coaching hires had threatened disruption. The 36-year-old retired as a player after leaving Everton in May only to return to Old Trafford eight years on from joining the Toffees. Neville made 386 first team appearances for United between 1995 and 2005, a further 303 for Everton, and he earned 59 caps for England.
“I have known and worked with Philip for eight years and, in that time, I have come to know his dedication, ability to lead and appetite for hard work,” said Moyes in praise of the new appointment
“He understands the club very well and I think his addition to the coaching staff will be a valuable one.”
In common with Giggs, Neville junior has been taking coaching badges over the past two years and was interviewed for the vacant managerial role at Everton this summer. While the top job at a Premier League club may be a little premature, Neville has focused on coaching rather than media work like his older brother.
“When I retired from football, I knew that I wanted to continue in the game; it’s something that I have been preparing for over the last few years,” said Neville.
“When David called to give me this opportunity, I couldn’t resist. I gave my all when I played for Everton but it is no secret that this club is in my heart.”
Meanwhile, many of Moyes’ staff have followed the Scot to Old Trafford. Steve Round becomes assistant manager, veteran Jimmy Lumsden replaces Rene Meulenstein and Chris Woods replaces goalkeeping coach Eric Steele.
Round has worked alongside David Moyes at Everton since July 2008, having previously worked for Steve McClaren at Middlesbrough and England. Meanwhile, Woods has been the goalkeeping coach at Everton since 1998, having enjoyed a fine playing career, including 43 caps for England. It is at least credibility at the top level even if many have expressed doubts about the coach’s pedigree.
It is the pensioner Lumsden, who has worked with Moyes since his days at Preston North End, that is perhaps the most surprising appointment given the he has rarely worked with the calibre of player available at United. This will be a test of credibility that Giggs will not have to pass.
“I have worked with Steve, Chris and Jimmy for a number of years,” said Moyes on Thursday.
“They bring great qualities in their respective fields and I know that they feel that this is a challenge to relish. I have great faith that together we can build upon the success this club has enjoyed.”
Moyes revealed that contrary to speculation Meulenstein was offered a role at United, albeit with a reduced remit, only for the Dutchman to turn down the position. Meulenstein is likely to be a man much in demand in both England and continental Europe.
Still, it is Giggs on whom many eyes will rest despite the plethora of coaching changes elsewhere. The Welshman completes his UEFA Pro licence this year – the essential prerequisite to manage in the Premier League.
The key question being after a period of coaching this year – and retirement from playing next summer – whether Giggs moves up the ranks at Old Trafford or takes a position elsewhere. Here Solskjaer is a guide, with the Norwegian spending two seasons as United’s reserve manager before taking over at Molde in the motherland.
“It’s a great privilege,” said Giggs of his new assignment.
“I hope I will be able to bring my experience to bear, having been part of the United family for so long. It’s no secret that I have been taking my qualifications and I see this as the first step in my future career.”
And should Giggs make a success of his first management role away from Old Trafford then the odds of the winger taking over the United manager’s job full-time will certainly fall. The top job may not be Giggs’ soon, but it surely will one day. It is certainly going to be entertaining to watch.