The “1992 Committee” – as fanzine Red Issue recently dubbed Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville – scored something of a victory when David Moyes was dismissed as Manchester United manager last Tuesday. It is not that the quartet had actively sought the Scot’s removal, although there has not been word of protest as Moyes left Old Trafford, but that Giggs so smartly maneuvered his group into position to take over. Indeed, such has been the fever greeting the Welshman’s appointment as interim manager this week that there is a new question – a key one at that: what role does Giggs and his ‘Committee’ take in a new, possibly Dutch, regime?
After all, Giggs may have been in the job only a week, but there has been a sense of genuine gravitas each day of the Welshman’s short reign. Giggs has demonstrated far greater poise in seven days, in fact, than Moyes had any point during 10 months in charge. The interim manager’s positivity in front of the press last week was then reflect in a decisive team selection for United’s victory over Norwich City at Old Trafford, and sensible in-game changes to ram home the Reds’ advantage.
Yet, while Giggs has proven to be a leader, his managerial qualities remain an enigma. There is little substance to a bandwagon that is rapidly gaining momentum. While Giggs has history and personality, there is little else on which to prop appointment to one of the world’s top jobs.
Still, the ease with which Giggs has slipped into Sir Alex Ferguson’s shoes is underlined by the glowing references offered by senior voices in and around the club. Giggs, said Wayne Rooney, has “all the credentials” to take over full time. Anders Lindegaard went further, comparing his team-mate to Pep Guardiola. Gary Neville outright called for the Welshman to be offered the job.
It seems unlikely Giggs’ ample fanbase will be rewarded though, with United privately unwilling to countenance a risky appointment after the damaging Moyes experiment. Yet, there is little doubt Ed Woodward and the Glazers are desperate to keep the 40-year-old former winger in some capacity – perhaps even to breaking point as a deal with manager-in-waiting Louis van Gaal is thrashed out.
It provokes an observation: if United fail to offer Giggs the manager’s job outright, could the Welshman bring ‘a lot of heat at the bottom of the ticket’ in an assistant’s role? It is a thesis bastardised from Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, but appropriate nonetheless given Giggs’ ample demonstration of political nous. So much that there is much weight to the belief that van Gaal may not want Giggs involved in a material way.
Indeed, the role of 1992’s cohort is perhaps central to ongoing negotiations with the Dutchman. van Gaal is keen to bring Danny Blind, Patrick Kluivert and a substantial Dutch entourage to Old Trafford; United’s executives remain resolute that a link between management and the Reds’ rich history is maintained.
This is in part a lesson from Moyes’ disastrous era, when the Scot replaced much of United’s coaching team with a quartet of colleagues from Everton – a move that precipitated damaging splits within the club. It is also commercial reality, with the ’92 group marketable in a fashion van Gaal’s team is not.
Still, Giggs’ candidature holds little more than sentiment at this point. He may have spent 25 years under Ferguson’s tutelage, but there is no team-building experience, nor work undertaken in the transfer market, to say little of a tactical outlook of which few have any real knowledge. The argument that a summer of significant rebuilding should be pushed through by a novice is as open to a charge of naivety as Giggs is raw.
These are solid doubts amid the emotion that Giggs’ promotion fosters. Yet, those prominent voices are ready to look beyond the coldly rational to a less prosaic outcome.
“What we have seen in the first week has been more than convincing,” wrote Lindegaard this week.
“The similarities with Sir Alex Ferguson are striking. Some would question whether you can go from being a team-mate one day to a manager the next. Normally I would have reservations, but in the case of Giggs it is different.
“His latest speech, before the team went onto the pitch for the Norwich game, made my hairs stand on end in a way that I have only ever experienced from Sir Alex Ferguson: Do not disappoint the fans!”
Neville went further still, first calling for the installation of a “British” manager at Old Trafford, and then naming Giggs as his preferred choice. Experienced or not, the bandwagon is rolling strongly in the Welshman’s favour and Giggs would not hesitate in accepting an unlikely call.
“Let him have two or three more games to see whether he can bed in and be given that role,” said Neville.
“Ryan hasn’t got experience but he knows the club. There’s the idea that Van Gaal has massive experience, but doesn’t know the Premier League. The owners want an experienced hand, but I personally would like to see a British manager be appointed.
“There’s the idea of managers who have one or two good seasons like Jose Mourinho. It worked for Chelsea and then Andre Villas-Boas didn’t. Ryan’s got no experience but then is Van Gaal going to work? We don’t know.”
Despite van Gaal now being rated as the odds-on favourite to secure a three year deal the club is reportedly open to other candidates. The due diligence process is undoubtedly sensible whatever the dearth of available candidates this summer.
With Mourinho tied to Chelsea, Guardiola unlikely to leave Bayern Munich and Carlo Anchelotti now safe at Real Madrid, United’s options have narrowed. Atlético Madrid’s Champions League final coach Diego Simeone and Antonio Conte – three-time Serie A winner with Juventus – are high-quality, if unlikely alternatives.
The smart money remains on the Dutchman, although he might not be available until late July or early August when Holland head home from this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Moreover, van Gaal’s intermediaries have made it clear that the 62-year-old is entirely focused on the national team from 7 May onwards. In this there is another problem for Woodward to solve: how United is to be highly active in the transfer market without a coach in place.
For the moment this is of little concern to Giggs, interim manager. But if negotiations with van Gaal break down the Welshman and his Committee will be ready to step in once again.