at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Ryan Giggs is exactly what Manchester United need, for now. A healing, unifying figure, steeped in the recent history of the club, surrounded by his friends, to a man Old Trafford legends. Yet what lies beyond? David Moyes had not won a trophy, we were told. He had not competed in the Champions League, never managed a team through a title race.
Neither has Giggs. He hasn’t won against Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal yet. He hasn’t even won an away match in the Premier League.
So let’s not get carried away. There was a predictably euphoric reaction to Giggs’s first game in charge — he’s got all the credentials for the job, said Wayne Rooney — and the second-half performance certainly showed more verve than Manchester United have in recent months.
But Norwich City were woeful. As bad as any Premier League team have been this season. United did not need a hero to beat Norwich. Any old Ryan could have sorted that lot out.
And Giggs is lucky with Manchester United’s remaining fixtures, too. They could have been hand-picked, such is their relative ease.
The hopeless Norwich are followed by a home match against Sunderland, who have enjoyed a revival of late but have been fighting relegation from bottom place for most of the season for a reason. Then there is another home game against Hull City, who will by then be in full FA Cup final mode, and a last away match with Southampton, who have a meaningless eighth place as good as guaranteed, and a young squad with perhaps one eye on the World Cup.
Giggs could win all four, by which time the clamour to give him the job would be overwhelming.
United may have created a monster here. If they are intent on appointing Louis van Gaal or Carlo Ancelotti, why allow for such an emotionally charged climax to the season?
Giggs looked every bit the United manager on Saturday. Smart suit, fit as a flea, Old Trafford his kingdom. He strode from the tunnel to a reception in keeping with his royal status.
Van Gaal has an ego the size of a planet. If the plan is to pair him with Giggs, long term, and Giggs has a winning record and is the people’s choice, how does that play out next season, as a radically changed team beds down in the Premier League?
Tottenham Hotspur discovered how difficult it is to blend new players en masse. If Van Gaal does not make an immediate impact, what happens if 75,000 fans direct their love to the man sat by his side?
Giggs can afford to do it differently over the next two weeks. David Moyes picked 51 different teams in 51 matches, which immediately suggests a state of confusion. Yet maybe his six-year contract hindered his thought process, making him believe he had time to find the winning formula.
So many changes suggest a man who was almost experimenting, playing with one eye on the future. Giggs has no such complication. He does not have to consider where Chris Smalling fits into a grand plan, once Rio Ferdinand has retired and Nemanja Vidic has departed for Inter Milan. He can just play Ferdinand and Vidic again, and they looked imperious against a lame Norwich team on Saturday.
Where does record signing Juan Mata fit in at Manchester United?
Giggs solves that problem by leaving him on the bench. He does not have to accommodate him. Not his signing, not his issue.
The job specification for a four-game interim manager is entirely different to that faced by Moyes. When Rafael Benitez took over from Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea, he had a lot to lose, and win. Chelsea were still in contention for the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Club World Cup.
As it was, Benitez won the Europa League and guaranteed Chelsea’s Champions League status for another year. Giggs, by contrast, has four games in which the worst that could have happened was conceding seventh place to Southampton — and that fear ended with Saturday’s win — and the best is the overhaul of Tottenham for sixth place with the dubious prize of a berth in the Europa League.
He has no pressure beyond personal pride, and Old Trafford’s expectation. Even if Manchester United are average, he will suffer no reputational consequence. What could he do? Look at what he inherited.
And, of course, it would be wonderful if Giggs grew from one of Manchester United’s greatest players to inherit and maintain the legacy of Sir Alex Ferguson. Yet it would have been equally heart-warming if Martin Johnson had led England’s rugby team to World Cup glory as a coach, as well as a player; or if it had been Kenny Dalglish, in his second coming at Liverpool, who had jumped seven places to top the Premier League.
Yet if Moyes was a gamble, so is Giggs. All the things Moyes hadn’t done, the trophies he hadn’t won, the titles he hadn’t chased, the opponents he hadn’t beaten, the same is true of Giggs as manager. He is a punt. A life-affirming, romantic punt. Yet didn’t Manchester United just take one of those on Moyes? We can all see the ideal; but isn’t it time to play safe? – Daily Mail