“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.