Ryan Giggs ended a 29-year professional relationship with Manchester United – choosing not to take a coaching position in José Mourinho’s regime. Having been ignored for the top job, Giggs’ departure came as little surprise, with the Welshman now keen to strike it out alone in the search of managerial honours. Rant looks back on a wonderful career… Read More
The Euros, together with the Copa Centenario, have provided the football world with a welcome distraction from another summer of transfer speculation. Things in the club game keep on moving though – despite the highlights, lowlights and simply bizarre moments of international tournaments. How on earth does it hail in France in the middle of June?
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.