It might just be the end of an era. Not just for a large group of Manchester United players set to leave the club over the summer, but for Ryan Giggs too. With a future role at Old Trafford far from certain, Tuesday night’s match against Hull City could be the last home appearance for a club legend – 962 games after Giggs made his playing début in 1991.
Saturday’s result against Sunderland has put a new spin on the interim manager’s future. One week on from Giggs’ managerial bow, the wheels came off the Welshman’s bandwagon in spectacular fashion with defeat to the Mackems at Old Trafford. The brief movement to appoint the 40-year-old rookie as David Moyes successor has been replaced by a realisation that it is Louis van Gaal – not Giggs – who will drive significant change this summer.
Indeed, the Dutchman’s appointment brings no guarantee that Giggs will be offered a coaching position next season – at least not of the seniority the Welshman is seeking. With the winter of Giggs’ playing career rapidly drawing in divorce from United seems increasingly likely; Tuesday potentially a fond farewell to the club’s most decorated servant.
It is a scenario of which Giggs is acutely aware with just two games remaining this season. Little wonder the veteran is considering a farewell cameo appearance in front of his home fans. If it is to be Giggs’ last home match of a stunning career United supporters will surely demand nothing less.
“I’ll have to take that into consideration but I also want to win the game as manager as well,” said Giggs.
“I want to do what’s best to win the game and not just make room for me in the starting line-up or on the bench, which I won’t do. Of course, the perfect scenario is me coming on and scoring a goal, the winning goal, and hopefully everyone will be happy but it doesn’t always work like that. We’ll have to wait and see what happens on the night.”
Giggs the manager has no fresh injury concerns, although Wayne Rooney is unlikely to be ready after the striker missed United’s weekend defeat. However, Rafael da Silva trained this week after recovering from a thigh injury, while Anders Lindegaard will make the bench if the Dane has recovered from flu.
“Wayne is probably struggling for the game. He’s not quite recovered. We’ll continue to monitor him,” said Giggs. “Rafa has trained in the last few days and looks good. He could be involved in the remaining two games.”
Giggs made six changes for Sunderland’s visit in an episode of squad tinkering of which former mentor Sir Alex Ferguson would be proud. However, after Saturday’s seventh home defeat of the season Giggs will surely freshen up his side once again ahead of Hull’s visit.
Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick all struggled against Sunderland, while Giggs must make a decision on wingers Nani and Ashley Young – both of whom were exceptionally poor against the Wearside team. Robin van Persie, Marouanne Fellaini, Chris Smalling and Shinji Kagawa will each hope for a starting spot.
Meanwhile, the visitors are without James Chester, who was substituted before half-time against Aston Villa last weekend. Steve Bruce is unlikely to risk Sone Aluko ahead of the FA Cup final, while Paul McShane, Robbie Brady and Allan McGregor all miss the match with injury.
Early in his managerial career Bruce was considered in the running to succeed Ferguson. Eight jobs later, mostly with the Premier League’s lesser lights, and Bruce knows that he will never take over at Old Trafford.
Still, there is a good argument that Bruce’s record exceeds that of Ferguson’s other acolytes: Bryan Robson, Alex McLeish, Roy Keane, Paul Ince, and even Mark Hughes. More than 30 former Ferguson players have joined the management ranks.
Bruce’s career has taken him to Wigan Athletic, Sunderland, and Crystal Palace, among others, although the former United defender has rarely held any job security except for a six-year spell at Birmingham City. Such is the manager’s lot – a lesson Giggs will learn at Old Trafford or elsewhere.
Bruce’s team lost 3-1 to Villa at the weekend, although his Hull side has enjoyed a decent campaign built on a sound defence. The Tigers are guaranteed a Europa League spot next season with FA Cup final opponents Arsenal having qualified for the Champions League – a final on 17 May that has effected Hull’s focus in recent weeks.
“If someone had said to me two years ago we’d be safe in the Premier League, planning for a FA Cup final and in Europe, they’d be carting me off in white coats,” said Bruce
“It’s difficult to keep everyone focused. Everyone in Hull is talking about it. Let’s be fair, it’s inevitable. Keeping people focused on the job ahead is difficult but we’ve still got a job to do in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, the odds remain that Giggs – much like Bruce and other heralded former United players – will never become full-time manager at Old Trafford. After all, the Welshman’s storied playing career is no guarantee of success in the dugout.
Still, the rookie revealed that he has spoken both to Bruce and Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the four match stint as interim manager.
“I have spoke to Brucie and Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer], two ex-team-mates. One has been in management for 15 or so years and the other has not been in management so long. It was great as both gave me different bits of advice,” said Giggs.
“With Brucie, I spoke to him about picking the team. I said to the press that the hardest thing was leaving people out, so he gave me a bit of advice on that. Will I take any notice of Brucie? I won’t on Tuesday night.”
Should Hull pull off an away win at Old Trafford, on what might be Giggs final appearance at Old Trafford, the Welshman might do well to ignore the critics too.
Manchester United v Hull City, Premier League, Old Trafford, 7.45pm, 6 May 2014
United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Vidić, Evra; Januzaj, Fellaini, Carrick, Welbeck; Mata; van Persie
Hull (3-5-2): Harper; Bruce, Davies, Figueroa; Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Rosenior; Long, Jelavić
United: Lindegaard, Amos, Büttner, Evans, Ferdinand, Cleverley, Fletcher, Valencia, Kagawa, Nani, Young, Hernández
Hull: Oxley, Jakupović, Bruce, Koren, Faye, Dudgeon, Fryatt, Boyd, Aluko, Sagbo, Quinn
Head to Head
United 25 Draw 17 Hull 3
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistants: A Garratt, D Bryan
Fourth Official: M Atkinson
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