Giggs hits the ground running, but future remains up in the air
Ryan Giggs wants to sign off his spell as Manchester United manager by leading the club into the Europa League. Giggs' final act as interim United boss will come today when he takes his team to Southampton for the last match of what has been a dreadful campaign.
Ever since he made his debut back in 1991, Giggs has never ended a season without having the prospect of European football to look forward to after the summer break. But this year United are looking increasingly likely to finish outside the qualification places. Already without a chance of making the Champions League, United will miss out on the Europa League unless they beat Southampton and Tottenham lose at home to Aston Villa.
Many United fans want their team to finish seventh. The Europa League is far less prestigious than the Champions League and not qualifying for Europe can help a team's domestic fortunes – as everybody has seen with Liverpool this year.
Giggs does not agree with those who say the Europa League would be more trouble than it is worth, though. "I maintain my stance, we want to be in Europe," United's interim player-manager said.
"We can only qualify for the Europa League and we will carry on trying to do that. It would have been in our hands now if we had beaten Sunderland (last week) because Tottenham lost (to West Ham). That was disappointing for us."
Europe or no Europe, whether Giggs will be involved with United – either as a player or a coach – is still up in the air. "I am going to take a holiday as soon as the season finishes and discuss with family and friends what to do next," said the Welshman, who came off the bench for a 20-minute cameo in the 3-1 win over Hull on Tuesday night. "It is not something I am thinking too much about, but I will."
The skills are still there – that much was evident when he went tearing down the left wing at Old Trafford in midweek. It is just a question of whether Giggs is ready to commit himself to another year of strict diet, fitness regimes, and the pressure of performing for a new manager, expected to be Louis van Gaal.
When Giggs took the microphone and addressed the 75,000 plus fans inside Old Trafford after the Hull win, it seemed like it was the end of an era. Giggs' future is still up the air while Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra both could leave the club next month.
United are yet to exercise their option to keep Ferdinand for another year. Under the terms of his current deal, Evra has the option to extend his contract, but he has yet to do so. Part of Giggs' mission when he was appointed interim manager was to lift the spirits of the dressing room and he has certainly done that.
Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Anders Lindegaard, who compared Giggs to Pep Guardiola, have all said Giggs has made a huge impact since taking over from David Moyes, who was sacked just 10 months into a six-year contract. Striker Javier Hernandez added his name to that list at the club's annual awards ceremony.
"He has been incredible," the Mexican told MUTV. "There are no words that can describe him. You don't know if he is going to stay here next year, but for these games it has been unbelievable to have played for Ryan Giggs."
Nicky Butt – a fellow Class of '92 graduate who has been a member of Giggs' backroom staff in his three matches in charge – has been impressed by how he has taken to management. "He has stepped up really well," Butt said. "It's difficult for him because he has played with (this squad) for a long time – he knows them as friends, so not to drop them has been difficult for him but he is a mentally strong lad. He has taken to it like a duck to water."