Hey, I heard René Meulensteen was on the radio the other day, hope he didn’t fall off. Ba-dum-tish!
Sorry. Was he standing on some monstrously big boom box? Tell you what don’t quit your day job.
Youse just as grumpy as Fergie on a bad day! Anyway René – that’s right we’re on a first name basis – was on about something. Was he talking about spirit animals? I like spirit animals.
Not quite Meulensteen was discussing Ryan Giggs and the Manchester United managerial position.
What did he say? Oh do tell.
Well here’s what he said. “I’ve had a few conversations with him and I said to him, ‘The only club you can manage is Manchester United, because everything you move away from is so foreign to you’. Because I’ve had my own experiences in that respect and you suddenly realise ‘Jesus, how different is this?’ And that’s what Sir Alex Ferguson installed over so many years, and you have to taste those ingredients to understand what it’s like. His biggest ambition is to carry on at Manchester United and manage Manchester United.”
That’s quite the mouthful, what does it all mean?
Well the short answer is that Giggs should hang about because his best shot of becoming United boss is by staying exactly where he is.
But I hear all the learned pundits imploring the former wing wizard to go out and obtain managerial experience from a magical well. Is that not the smart thing to do?
Conventional wisdom suggests he should leave, learn about the game, experience new challenges and then come back after having a few years under his belt.
You mean like Steve Bruce, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? That sounds like a great…oh wait.
Exactly. This may sound a touch counter-intuitive, but Meulensteen’s point makes a certain amount of sense. No club will replicate the atmosphere that Giggs experiences at United. Learning his craft at a lower league club, fighting relegation or aiming for promotion might not prepare him for the rigours at Old Trafford. Meulensteen’s observation that Giggs experience away from United will be ‘foreign’ rings true. If Giggs does leave Old Trafford the only chance of him returning to the hot seat would be if he had a shiny, glittering trophy laden CV. Having to adapt to the culture of another club, with a different set of demands, may not be the best grounding for Giggs if he wants the role he so covets.
Sorry, I was eating an orange.
Really? What a fortuitous and not at all clumsily scripted segue to a certain La Liga club.
You mean Valencia? But the Valencia orange isn’t even from Spain!
As I said, a not at all clumsily scripted! The point is that Gary Neville’s uninspiring spell at Valencia points to the dangers of what could happen if Giggs uproots and manages at another club. When Gary took on the job at the Mestalla he was considered by many to be ahead of Giggs in the race to the Old Trafford throne. However, United’s old full-back hasn’t yet come to grips with the demands of La Liga. What started as the first step on the path to a possible coronation is now turning into a chastening experience. No doubt Giggs has kept a close eye on his former teammate’s tenure and has made a notes about the pros
and cons of the Neviller’s experience.
Okay, so where does United go from here? Hiring experienced managers hasn’t exactly been an unqualified success since the good knight said “goodnight.”
True. David Moyes was supposed to be the continuity candidate, but those years of getting Everton to tread water in the Premier League wasn’t the right grounding for a position at United. Louis van Gaal has a very good pedigree, but thus far his philosophy has been found wanting. So what’s the common thread between the two? They tried to change United’s culture rather adopting and building on the values and foundations that Ferguson laid.
What about rumours that Giggs was on the verge of joining Celtic?
The story was nothing more than a red herring. United’s assistant manager was, sadly, mourning the death of his grandfather.
That is sad. Shows that we’re too quick to jump to conclusions.
So is there a hope of Giggs becoming United’s Guardiola?
There’s always hope, but it’s worth noting the differences between the pair. Guardiola has experienced football in Spain, Italy, Qatar and Mexico before returning to coach the Barcelona B team. Giggs, on the other hand, has known nothing but United. He’s learned under Ferguson, Moyes and Van Gaal, coached for two and a half years, and managed a grand total of four games. There’s a big difference.
So United’s Zinedine Zidane then?
Different again. Zidane has 18 months experience coaching the Castilla, Real Madrid’s B team. So in a certain respect he’s more qualified than Giggs.
What’s the grand plan?
Well, initially it was to have Louis van Gaal come in, steady the ship, reestablish United as a leading force in the Premier League, win some trophies and then hand over to Giggs, who would establish a new dynasty built on very steady foundations. Things haven’t worked quite like that, with the norm being a series of Van Gaal-labaloos peppering the media and United delivering, more often than not, sterile football.
And now José’s name has been popping up with Guardiola sauntering his way to the Etihad. How does that affect Giggs’ chances?
To put it bluntly, it doesn’t look good. Plenty of media outlets have been reporting stories that United’s hierarchy has spoken to Mourinho’s representatives about taking over at Old Trafford. Bear in mind talks does not necessarily mean an agreement has been reached. What it does suggest is that there appears to be support in the boardroom for Mourinho’s arrival, after years of antagonism. If there is a faction backing Giggs then there could be yet more boardroom bickering.
Giggs’ options look thin. Can he ever fulfill his ambition of managing Manchester United?
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Van Gaal leaves this summer and Mourinho is recruited. Giggs could walk away and forge his own career away from Old Trafford. If his contemporaries are anything to go by he will greatly reduce his chances of sitting in the Old Trafford hot seat one day. Giggs cannot afford to be a moderate success, in the mold of Luis Enrique, who has now taken over at Barcelona. The Welshman will need a glittering CV. Alternatively, he could remain at Old Trafford in a coaching capacity in the knowledge that José will need to buck the habit of a lifetime if the Portuguese wishes to establish a dynasty at United. Giggs still has time on his side – after all he’s still only 42. A few years learning from José may not be a bad thing
What else could Giggs do to ensure that he’s United’s next manager?
Get Jorge Mendes to represent him!
Any other suggestions?
It may serve Giggs well to bide his time. As odd as it sounds Giggs’ lack of a managerial track record works in his favour. There’s nothing to condemn him just yet. Has the Welshman’s name been sullied under the Van Gaal era? To a point, but certainly not as much as, say, Gary Neville is suffering in Spain. Giggs’ success is not guaranteed, but to maximize his chances of landing the job he’s better off staying at United rather than heading to pastures new.
So Meulensteen was making sense?
Okay, shall we talk about spirit animals now?
Must we? I’m feeling a bit sheepish.