Disclaimer – This was written after the defeat to Sunderland
The gap left by Sir Alex Ferguson was of a considerable size as many expected. David Moyes learned that the hard way. He came into a job that was too big for him to grasp, disposed of a less than mediocre midfield that he failed to strengthen and a dressing room full of players with more trophies than he will ever win.
People say that Moyes lost the dressing room. From my point of view it looks like he never had it. The four remaining games were given to Ryan Giggs, a legend amongst men in both Manchester United and the rest of the football word.
Giggs had completed his coaching badges as a player and was given a a player/coach role under Moyes. Now, he would be trusted to finish a season best forgotten on a high note. The “Giggs effect” was evident already before the game against Norwich. The fans were optimistic and there were smiles at Carrington. The fact that his first decision was to bring in Scholes and Butt in addition to Phil Neville from the Class of ’92 certainly helped.
The game against Norwich was one of very few highlights this season. We played with urgency, purpose and a fire we’ve rarely seen this season. The same players who played poorly under Moyes were on fire under Giggs. His decision to exclude Juan Mata from the starting XI raised a few eyebrows but little did it matter when Norwich were beaten 4-0. The starting XI worked, the substitutions worked, the tactics worked and Giggs looked dashing on the touchline in his suit. A good result and a good performance. Why couldn’t we play like this all season?
In the days following the Norwich game the debate raged on. Should Giggs be given a shot as manager next season? Should he leave and gain managerial experience somewhere else? Or should he, as I have voiced support for, stay at Manchester United as assistant manager or in an elevated coaching role? The votes seemed to dither in all directions.
Some would argue that Giggs know the “Ferguson way”. I would argue that that’s not enough, especially in the modern game. This debate went on until the Sunderland game. Reality came crashing down on us after another record defeat at Old Trafford.
Even though we saw most of the ball, we couldn’t score. It was just like another disappointing game under Moyes. Our midfield was abysmal, exemplified in how both our central midfielders were at fault for Sunderland’s goal. The substitutions were strange, taking off Mata and leaving on players such as Hernandez, Carrick and Fletcher who all failed to have any impact on the game whatsoever.
Of course we missed Rooney, who has arguably been our top performer this season, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for not beating a team struggling for survival. The fact that they have something to play for and we don’t doesn’t matter. Manchester United should always play to win. Why did the players perform against Norwich? To me it seemed like a moral boost after Moyes left. Giggs is a respected man at Manchester United and I can imagine the players would want to do good for him but to put it very bluntly, I think even Tom Cleverley could have been given the role and seen the same result.
So let’s face it. Ryan Giggs is not a manager, even though the idea is romantic. He is not a manager. Yet. He has only one year behind him as a part time coach and even though he learned from the best as a player, the same could not be said for his year as a coach. I want Giggs to one day become the manager of United as do many fans. Giggs probably does too.
If he is to pursue this dream, my uneducated advice is simple; stay put, Ryan. The modern game has so many aspects that one could never learn after a year as a player/coach. The Ferguson way was a good way but it has become increasingly evident just how mighty he was. We will probably never see another man like him, and even though Giggs is Manchester United through and through, I doubt he will turn into a carbon copy of Sir Alex.
So let’s look at the three choices.
Become the permanent manager of Manchester United right away.
There is already so much speaking against this. We are currently a club in desperate need of repairing. Our midfield needs replacing, ageing players are leaving or retiring and after the reign of Moyes, discipline is sorely needed. For me, the task of fixing all this is too great for Giggs at the moment.
He (probably) doesn’t know the inner workings of transfers, contract renewals and how to run the biggest club in the world in general. And he is currently a player. He has played with many of the current players for a long time and there is undoubtedly loyalty lingering. Would he have the guts to tell fellow players, friends, that they are not good enough and that they are not considered first team material?
Has he had the time to assess the weak links of the squad, and would he replace a friend with a fresh face? I don’t know and I don’t want to find out, to be honest. At the moment, the job is too big for him, just like it was too big for Moyes. Simply knowing the club doesn’t automatically give you the abilities and ruthlessness required. His tactical game is not fully developed and his experience as a manager is next to nothing.
Leave Manchester United to gain managerial experience.
Giggs knows Manchester United, is trusted and respected by the staff and players and took over just when the fans needed a man like that to look to. He won’t have that at any other club.
Sure, he would have respect as the player he is and once was but that respect would come from an outside view and not from the inside view they have at United. He’d have to start from scratch to know his new club and his new squad. After one year as a player/coach the task would seem big.
Taking over a new club could also be a harsh downfall. What if the results don’t come? Would he get fired and have to start anew? A sacking does nothing good for a manager’s reputation and a tarnished reputation is not something a manager want. Look at Ole. After taking Molde to their first ever league titles he went to Cardiff. After a series of poor results, Cardiff will play next season in the Championship and Ole’s reputation has definitely taken a hit. Would anyone want to see Ryan come crawling back after a failed leave for “managerial experience”? I certainly wouldn’t.
Stay at United as assistant manager or in an elevated coaching role.
So it comes down to the third and final alternative. Giggs should stay at United to further develop his abilities as a manager. Our club needs repairing and from what I’ve seen and heard, Louis Van Gaal could be the man to do that. All signs point to the Dutchman at the moment. A new manager would probably bring in his own staff but Manchester United would undoubtedly push through a demand that Giggs stays, one way or the other.
As assistant manager or as an elevated coach, Giggs could learn from yet another manager after the success of Ferguson and the failings of Moyes. As a manager, Giggs shouldn’t base his style on one man, but on several.
Van Gaal would undoubtedly be able to teach him a few things and letting Giggs learn from the background for a few more years would do him good. In, say, three years Giggs could be given extensive lessons in transfers, contract renewals, discipline and how to run Manchester United. He would gain a whole new view on managing from Van Gaal who is considered to be a bit of a crazy git, but a world class manager nonetheless.
Van Gaal is 62 years old and not considered as the long term solution. He will be brought in to undo the failings of Moyes and Ferguson’s neglect of strengthening sorely needed areas of the squad. He will also straighten up a squad of players who have showed a severe lack in attitude this season. During this time, Giggs will work further on his coaching, his managerial abilities and his ideas of how to play football.
I love Ryan, but he’s not ready to venture off quite yet. So I say, he should stay at United for a few more years and work hard. Then one day, he will undoubtedly take over United like he seems destined to do.