Louis van Gaal has continuously talked up Giggs as the man to take over the reins at the Theatre of Dreams once he steps down. The thought of one of the fabled Class of ’92 building another dynasty at Old Trafford sets pulses racing, but is also tinged with caution after what happened with the ‘chosen one’. With Klopp’s arrival at Anfield and with Pep seemingly available very soon, should Man United go for the tried and tested, or go with a man that has dedicated his life to the club; learning under the greatest manager of all time? Let’s look at the possible benefits and drawbacks to figure out why exactly fans are so torn.
Heart vs. Head
Manchester United is a club like none other; they are unique in so many ways, and possess a history that few clubs can match. There is a certain romanticism about the club, which has rubbed off on their fans and the way they see the game. Becoming the first English club to win the European Cup, ten years after they lost half the team to the Munich Air disaster was a marvelous achievement, and is central to the club’s large following; not just the success of the last 20+ years. There is a certain luster about the club which was embodied by the class of ’92 and the two decades of dominance under Sir Alex Ferguson. Things like these have a mythical feel and this is what can sometimes cloud the judgment of fans and the club’s hierarchy alike. Manchester United pay homage to their rich history, but it shouldn’t lead to unrealistic beliefs like it did when David Moyes was hired. The idea that another Glaswegian could stroll in, take the wheel and replicate Sir Alex’s success was naïve . It was more romantic than pragmatic and is a decision Manchester United is still paying for till this day. This is not saying Manchester United should dismiss their record appearance maker; as they say, great risks can yield great rewards and a situation where Giggs is successful, would bring far more joy to the supporters than if it came with any random manager. People perceive United fans as glory hunters and people who just care about winning, but in most cases this is very far from the truth. They are idealistic and love a narrative, and Giggs taking over at his old stomping ground would be one hell of a story.
Ryan Giggs’ personality would set him in good stead if he took over. The first thing ex pros and managers say about him is that he has a steely determination, a ruthless cold streak that all top managers have. Ferguson always used to say that Giggs was unemotional, and never got overly excited or down. I think this is a tremendous trait to have, especially when taking probably the most highly scrutinized job in football. His determination is epitomized by his longevity. Despite being the most decorated player in English football history, it was never enough, and he kept tirelessly working till the grand old age of 40. Numerous sacrifices have to be made to play at the highest level for so long, but you also have to have a certain love and understanding of the game to do so. Ryan’s love of the game extends to the club he played for, and I believe he would do everything humanly possible to get the club back to where it belongs. For a foreign manager, it’ll be just another job, another paycheck, but for Giggs, Manchester United is everything. When there’s an emotional investment, you’re more likely to give it that extra 10%. The reality however is that, desire is not a substitute for competency, but it’s a good starting point.
Another reason certain fans wouldn’t mind the appointment is because of the similarities with the situation of Guardiola at Barcelona. A club legend with almost no managerial experience takes over and achieves unbelievable success. If I was a Barcelona fan before Pep’s appointment, I would have written a similar article preaching the importance of realism – and we all know how that worked out. So maybe there is room for sentiment and maybe the idea that a player with the right personality, one that clearly understands the game and his club inside out might actually be a fantastic appointment.
The appointment of Giggs, like with any other club legend, would bring initial optimism. There would be a tangible buzz around the club and its fans but this can only last so long. After a while, reality sets in, and the idea of Giggs the legend will soon be forgotten and he will be judged solely on results. The Guardiola success story has proven to be more of an anomaly. Club legends don’t get as much sympathy as you think from the fans that adored them. The club, rather than any individual is still the most important thing. Look at the situation with Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness for example; two Liverpool icons, but the fans couldn’t wait to get rid of them when they saw their revered reds stagnating. Look at AC Milan, with the ill-fated appointments of Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi, and of course, Alan Shearer who took his beloved Newcastle down. These marriages between clubs and their legends can be tremendously awkward, especially when things start going badly. Should the board stick or twist? Do you give a club legend more time because he scored hundreds of goals for you? I believe it’s something that is best avoided if possible. There is no substitute for managerial experience, and as we’ve seen on numerous occasions, being a great player is no guarantee of being a manager of equivalent standard.
Managing a behemoth such as Manchester United is a daunting task for even the most experienced managers. Apart from the playing side, Giggs would have to be involved in so much more. Can he handle the transfer market? Can he handle the inevitable disputes that will happen in the board and changing rooms? Can he handle egocentric millionaire footballers that might try and cause unrest? There are too many unanswered questions and that is why I believe it’s a massive risk. Once Louis van Gaal steps down, Giggs should attempt to manage a less illustrious club to get his feet wet, with the eventual aim of coming back to the club he loves. The competition and the financial rewards in the Premier League are too great to make a decision based on feeling. Experience at the biggest clubs is vital because distressing times will come, and the fans need assurance that the manager is in complete control.
Ryan Giggs should be appointed as the manager of Manchester United Football club – when he is ready. At the same time, United currently need experience and to be in the hands of someone who has been successful. The football landscape has changed significantly, and such risks just can’t be taken anymore, or else the club will lag behind. Look at the likes of Liverpool, where constant poor managerial selections over the past 20 years has left them in a situation where one can’t imagine them winning a league title again.
The perfect choice for the manager’s position for me is Pep Guardiola. This is a man with vast experience despite being so young. The players would have absolutely no doubts about him and will automatically submit to his demands. More pertinently though, is his playing style. He plays a similar way to the current manager, but far more aesthetically pleasing. United will dominate games and play with tempo as well as style. The transition will be smooth and will continue to move the club forward. The last thing United needs is to try and replicate things from the Ferguson era, and one suspects that’s what Giggs, like Moyes might try and do. The past is dead; Giggs might just be the future, but not quite yet.