Comment: Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs shared the same dream and it may now be shattered for good
Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane shared the same dream as their glorious Manchester United careers came to an end and it would not have involved exchanging pleasantries on the Aviva Stadium touchline.
New Wales boss Giggs and Ireland assistant manager Keane will be reunited for a vital UEFA Nations League match at the Aviva Stadium tonight, but this is not the kind of occasion they would have wanted to be associated with as they set out on their coaching adventure.
For icons of the game who were used to big Champions League nights at Old Trafford, shadow boxing in the second tier of international football is something of a comedown, yet reality has hit hard for these two legends.
Giggs and Keane could have been forgiven for believing they would be part of United’s future for as long as they wanted, with their gravitas at Old Trafford becoming so significant as they won remarkable 38 major trophies between them during the club’s most successful era.
Yet as so many giants of the game have discovered, football has a cruel trait of culling its greats when they become surplus to requirements and as Giggs and Keane discovered in pretty brutal fashion, sentiment did not come into play when the moment came for them to leave United.
Back in the days when celebrated players were handed managerial the top managerial jobs on reputation alone, this A-list duo may well have been strong contenders to follow in the footsteps of their joint mentor Alex Ferguson by becoming United manager.
Indeed, a Giggs/Keano dream team may have been a viable management team if the game was still being played by the old rules, yet a collection of circumstances have combined to ensure that have ensured their path to glory in the footballers afterlife would not be as glorious as their remarkable playing careers.
Indeed, with Jose Mourinho still teetering on the brink of the sack at United, there is no suggestion that the return of two of Fergie’s old guard would be the solution to the post-Ferguson hangover that refuses to clear for the club’s decision makers.
With one leading bookmaker listing Keane as a 100-1 shot to be the next United boss and Giggs is listed as 25-1 outsider to succeed Mourinho, these two heroes have been cast into the memory banks of yesteryear and find themselves fishing for compliments on a very different stage now.
In fact, any suggestion of Giggs or Keane being considered as a replacement for Mourinho would be greeted with derision rather than delighted by fans who cherish the memory these two left behind.
Former greats banished to the sidelines for the odd testimonial game or fundraiser that stirs the nostalgia. This is not what Giggs and Keane would have imagined their United legacy would become and yet it is hard to envisage that perception changing any time soon.
While coaching novice Giggs could yet emerge as a coaching talent of some repute, Keane has a tarnished record as a manager that has been further scarred by his less than convincing contribution as Martin O’Neill’s fiery assistant in his Ireland set-up.
As has tended to be his way when a relationship comes to a conclusion, Keane burnt plenty of bridges as he left United after a blazing row with Alex Ferguson, yet when Giggs reflects on his initial experiences in coaching, he offers up an appraisal that may well resonate with Ireland’s celebrity assistant manager.
“I have always felt that I would be better suited to working with players at the top level and that is not an arrogant statement, just a reflection of how my own career went and what I become used to,” states Giggs.
“Obviously, you learn a lot from working with a legend of the game like Alex Ferguson, but I would say the experience I had at United was enhanced by also being there when David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were manager.
“I carried on playing until I was 40, so I have been playing catch-up in terms of my coaching skills because even if you know how the game works, understand tactics and have a desire to be a manager, it is hard just to flick the switch from being a player to becoming a coach.
“Being assistant to Louis van Gaal at United was a fantastic learning experience, but it’s very different when you become the boss and the decisions all rest with you. That is what I’m starting to get to grips with in this job with Wales.”
Keane took charge of 181 games as manager of Sunderland and Ipswich, with a lamentable win percentage of just 38 per-cent almost identical to the figure Martin O’Neill has by his name as Ireland manager.
It is a modest number serial winner Keane would not want to be associated, with Giggs suggesting the arts of management in the current era is as much about developing the right personality as it is honing your tactical skills.
Keane hinted once again in his most recent interview that he was keen to return to club coaching when the right opportunity presented itself to him, with these words from Giggs serving as advice to his Irish colleague as he eyes up a return to frontline management.
“Modern management has changed from the days when I started at United,” adds the Wales boss. “Alex Ferguson adapted to that change and proved that with the success he enjoyed, but it is all about fining an approach that works for you.
“I played with some great characters like Roy Keane and Paul Ince and you would think they would be great leaders, but it is not easy to move into management, especially when you drop down a level or two in terms of standard of players.
“What I have tried to do is spend as much time as I can around managers, coaches of other sports and tried to take in as much as I could about what can be successful in management, but you have to find your own way in the end.”
Two of Ferguson’s most celebrated champions are still finding their own way 26 years after they first became team-mates at United and while they could lead by example when making use of their supreme talents as players, succeeding in the footballing afterlife is proving to be a bigger challenge.