Thursday 12 December 2019

Man United fans do not want Ryan Giggs to take over - so what are his options?

Manchester United Assistant Manager Ryan Giggs
Manchester United Assistant Manager Ryan Giggs

Supporters are turning away from club legend Ryan Giggs in the race to replace Louis van Gaal, leaving him in a tricky position.

Do United fans really not want Giggs as their next manager?

It would appear not. A poll conducted on gives Giggs 21 per cent of the 77,000 votes cast; the numbers on a poll offering United fans a choice between Jose Mourinho and Giggs on the Manchester Evening News website delivers a similar proportion, while things are far bleaker for the former United winger on the popular United fans' forum Red Cafe, where he has received just eight per cent of votes.

When anti-Louis van Gaal feelings were running particularly high in December, the hawkers outside Old Trafford were not selling out of Ryan Giggs scarves, but those bearing the face of Mourinho, and there has been no great clamour for his appointment in the form of chants or songs from the Stretford End during matches.

Why is he not seen as the obvious successor?

Tainted by association

To be associated with one failed managerial regime might be considered unlucky; to be linked with two suggests something more problematic. Giggs was not overly damaged by his role on David Moyes' coaching staff - others, such as the assistant manager Steve Round, had more senior positions in the backroom team, and Giggs' stock was still dizzyingly high from his playing achievements. When the Moyes era began to collapse around him, it was the Scot himself and the men brought with him from Everton who acted as a lightning rod for fan anger, with Giggs playing the role of saviour by stepping in for the final four games of the season.

Under Van Gaal, things are not so clear-cut. While few believe that a manager as autocratic and self-confident as Van Gaal is giving Giggs significant powers on the training ground when it comes to tactics or that famed 'philosophy', neither is he a mere bib-carrier or cone-arranger.

As Van Gaal told the Telegraph last year, "Ryan Giggs is making a presentation for the players out of the images that [United scouts] Marcel Bout and Paul Brand have selected. Then we make a game-plan because of the analysis. Then we discuss the game-plan. The next day we have to present it to the players. Giggs is doing that. So, another meeting with the players. They have to look. We explain. Then we go and train the game-plan 11 against 11. Ryan Giggs is coaching the opponent. He has analysed them."

Revelations such as this make it difficult for Giggs to distance himself entirely from the insipid football and mediocre results that have been delivered by United this season.

True, he occasionally makes a point of venturing down from the dug-out at Old Trafford - which is located at a slightly raised level in front of the Main Stand - to the technical area to bawl and bellow instructions, while Van Gaal remains forever sedentary, clipboard in hand. But that is not enough for many fans who now appear to consider Giggs part of the problem, rather than the solution.

Viable alternatives

It is Giggs' great misfortune that just as the job of his dreams hoves into view, he happens to be jousting against a man with one of the most illustrious CVs in the game.

Few managers can compare with Jose Mourinho's tally of two Champions League titles, eight league championships in four countries, and a stack of other cups, but for Giggs - whose managerial record reads played four, won two, drawn one, lost one - it must be particularly unnerving. He can point to his immersion in the culture of Manchester United, and an unparalleled playing career at the club, but appointing him on a permanent basis still smacks of giving a learner driver the keys to a supercar.

Fear of failure

It might appear anathema for a club of United's bullishness and reputation, but the fear of what happens if Giggs is appointed and the club's slide continues also counts against him.

This, after all, is the man who boasts the greatest number of appearances and the largest medal haul in United's history, the bridge between the Ferguson era and United's next generation. If he fails - and with the squad United have at the moment, the arrival of Pep Guardiola across town at Manchester City, the rise of rivals such as Tottenham and the surely inevitable resurgence next season of Chelsea and Liverpool - where do the club turn next?

Pep Guardiola represents a new threat to United

Gary Neville is finding management a trial in Valencia, Paul Scholes shows no inclination to swap his punditry duties for coaching badges, and Nicky Butt - while now ensconced within the United set-up at the academy - does not possess the same cachet. The failure of a Giggs regime would almost certainly spell the end of the club's dream of an Anfield Boot Room-style inheritance. It sounds defeatist, but maybe it would be better simply not to try?

What are his options?

Staying put would be the safe choice. It is inconceivable that Giggs would be sacked by a United hierarchy who must still be acutely aware of his standing among supporters who remember his dashing displays as a player, and even if Mourinho were to be appointed this summer, the chances are that a place would be found for him among the backroom staff, granting him the chance to continue his coaching education.

Whether that appeals is another matter: Mourinho will surely want to bring his long-term associates Rui Faria, Silvino Louro, Jose Morais and Carlos Lali to United, meaning Giggs could be sidelined, and he might consider yet another backroom appointment a slap in the face.

Leaving is the nuclear option. There would be no shortage of clubs willing to offer a man of his pedigree the chance to become a No1 - there were suggestions Swansea were keen to do just that after sacking Garry Monk earlier this season - and it would be a bold, brave move that might win admirers outside the bubble of Old Trafford.

The drawbacks are obvious: choosing to break the link with his only club would relieve United of the obligation to offer him a place in their set-up, so there would be no guarantee of a way back - especially if his chosen job did not work out.

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