It's Giggs' destiny to be United manager
Old Trafford legend has the hunger, steel and respect of dressing-room to steady ship, writes Henry Winter
Published 22/04/2014 | 02:30
Never, ever, ever underestimate Ryan Giggs. All the talk is of experienced, charismatic European managers to succeed David Moyes, men like Jurgen Klopp, but at some point at Old Trafford, whether short-term caretaker or more likely in the long term, Giggs will be manager. It's his destiny.
He has worked hard on his Pro-Licence, getting "badged up" in dressing-room parlance. He studied Alex Ferguson for 20 years, and Moyes for a few months, absorbing lessons, good and bad.
He's ambitious. United's board could do worse than place the side in the tender hands of Giggs, supported by Rene Meulensteen.
United were always going to be the poorer the moment Moyes signalled he did not want to keep on the Dutchman's coaching expertise and wisdom. Meulensteen has strong opinions and will voice them. Nobody did that to Moyes, who made unchecked mistakes from dug-out to press conference.
Installing a Giggs-Meulensteen caretaker axis would give United's board time to find a successor, to commence the complicated courtship of the likes of Klopp. It would also give the board an opportunity to have a look at Giggs in the role, to assess the reaction of fans and players.
"Management does interest me,'' Giggs told me once. When I asked what a Giggs' team would be like, he smiled: "I'd like a few wingers in there.'' The emphasis would be on attack, on adventure, on taking on opponents, on raging against the ticking clock and unflattering scorelines, on never giving up. On reverting to the Ferguson way, the United way, after the timidity of Moyes.
There would be no deference to rivals from Giggs in his pre-match utterances, a Moyes weakness that has infuriated United followers. There would be no fear of the media; I helped give him a mock press conference during his Pro-Licence studies at St George's Park and he just couldn't be caught out.
He was polite, controlled, confident. He was in charge. He knew all the ruses; he'd watched the laird and master, Ferguson, in action for a couple of decades.
Could he handle the pressure? Yes. This is a man who has lived in the public's scrutiny since his teenaged years and remained sane, whose private life was all over the front pages and yet he remains grounded, if occasionally guarded with those new to his company.
Otherwise, he is good, frank company. A rare coffee with Giggs is a privilege, an education and a reminder of his managerial potential.
It's in his eyes. There's a hardness there, an unrequited hunger for more success. It might stem from his early years, from growing up without a father figure because of the estrangement between his parents.
The father figure in Giggs' life was a manager, a Scot who protected him, rollocked him, and helped his fulfill his dreams. The role of the manager is huge for Giggs. No wonder he sees his next job in the dug-out.
Carrington and Old Trafford are his homes. He has absorbed knowledge from Ferguson down the years, heard the team-talks and noted how Ferguson knew the names of all the staff at Carrington, the names of the schoolboys breaking through, even their parents' names. He really knows only one manager – the best.
Giggs' thirst for knowledge has always kept him ahead of the rest, kept him playing into his 40s, and kept him on the path to management.
He talks to United's sports scientists on a daily basis, anything to extend his career and understand players better. He speaks to the coaches. He works with the players, taking delight in Adnan Januzaj's hunger to learn tricks of the left-winger trade. They have talked of the skills required to take on full-backs, the strength also needed off the field to deal with the limelight. Giggs is already shaping United's future.
Now embarked on the player-coaching journey, Giggs is still a fighter, still moaning in the dressing-room, admitting that if "someone has made a mistake, I'll let them know", shouting "what were you thinking?''.
If Giggs talks, players listen. He commands that respect. Partly it is his delivery, which brooks no argument, but it is also the playing pedigree of a man who has won 13 Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions Leagues, whose blood runs United red.
Great players do not often make great managers. Being able to do skills instinctively is no preparation for explaining them. Legends often lack patience with lesser footballing mortals. Appointing Giggs would run against accepted footballing practice, yet there is something special about him, something that radiates 'unfinished business' with United.
Meulensteen has never been in any doubt that Giggs possesses the skills-set to dominate a dug-out and shape a team's fortunes with his nous rather than his feet.
"Without a shadow of doubt Giggs can be a manager,'' Meulensteen told me in February. "He has got enormous knowledge about the game. He's a very good thinker. He'll be a very shrewd decision-maker.
"He's tough. Believe me, Giggs is tough. He'll handle the media and the stress with ease. It's about getting the right guys about him.'' Meulensteen could do that. As a short-term double act, it could just work. (© Daily Telegraph, London)