Giggs: Youth is what the club was built on
Ryan Giggs granted MUTV an exclusive interview during his time with the Wales squad at the Aon Training Complex on Tuesday.
Our most-decorated player, and record appearance maker, explained why his philosophy is steeped in the best traditions of Manchester United, by providing young players with opportunities and discussed the impact the late Eric Harrison had on him.
Ryan is preparing his squad for games against Trinidad & Tobago and Slovakia and felt it was extremely beneficial to make the best use of the Reds' excellent facilities.
Welcome back to the Aon Training Complex, does it still feel like home to you?
“Yeah, it does. Obviously I spent a lot of time here, both as a player and then, towards the end, as a coach. To see so many familiar people is great. It’s great to be back. I am here quite a lot obviously because my son is here [training] every Tuesday and Thursday so it’s not as if I’m not here but, obviously, this is in a different capacity.”
I’m not sure if you noticed on your way in but your name is on the plaque here at the Jimmy Murphy Centre as a two-times winner of the Young Player of the Year…
“Yeah – it was a long time ago! No, especially with Wales, the link with the Jimmy Murphy Centre means it’s quite apt we’re here as well doing the press conference. I mean I’m really thankful to United for letting me use the facilities. It’s not often we play up north at Wrexham. We have a facility in north Wales which isn’t quite ready yet so I jumped at the chance, knowing both the facilities would be good and the excitement it would generate within the squad because training at the Aon Training Complex is something you don’t get to see every day.”
Is that particularly good for the young players in the squad?
“It is, you know. I’m trying to drive the professionalism and standards and, obviously here, you see that. It’s great for the pitches and beforehand with the pre-activations for the warm-up. Also we spend more time here afterwards as we’re not in a rush to get back to the hotel. We can have a coffee and chat and it’s been a really good experience for everybody, not just the young players.
Albert [Stuivenberg] and Tony [Strudwick] are back too – how valuable are they as backroom staff?
”All the staff are valuable. Tony and Albert worked here before so it’s good for them to come back as well. I think all the staff have enjoyed it, coming in and seeing the facilities and seeing some friendly faces. I knew we’d be looked after.“
We know [your son] Zach is here in the Academy – do you get to see Nicky Butt when you come over for his training sessions?
”His son is the same age as my son so, yeah, I see him all the time. Now and again, Nicky is one of my best mates, so I’ll come and I’ve done talks with the youth team. I’ll also come in and have a coffee and talk about stuff. Like I say, I’m here quite a bit.“
So you have contact with the Academy – we’re very proud we’re still getting players through into the first team…
”Yeah, of course. When you see that, and you’ve seen the game against PSG, and how we ended with the amount of young players who have come through. It’s fantastic to see. This is what the club is built on and I’m trying to do that as well with the Welsh national team by bringing young players through and giving them a chance. Very often, if you do give them a chance, they won’t let you down.“
Is that something you’ve always firmly believed in? When you were caretaker manager here, you gave some youngsters their head as well…
“It is – I recognise I got a chance at 17 and, if you go back to then, you can’t wait for that chance. Then, it’s up to you to take it. The next thing is to obviously stay in the team. I’m giving the opportunity but I don’t just throw young players in for the sake of it. If they are good enough, it doesn’t really matter what age they are. Also, it’s just giving a competitive edge with the more experienced and established players looking over their shoulder. It’s a really good balance. We have a great set of lads, the more experienced lads who have been there and done it and the young players coming through.”
You’ve said Gareth Bale is the ‘main man’ but does it take some of the pressure off him having the youngsters coming through?
“Well, I think Gareth puts himself under pressure because he’s under pressure all the time at Real Madrid. I know what it’s like playing at a big club. So he’s used to it. I recognise we have got an amazing player, one of the world’s best players, in the team but also, if he’s not there, like you say it’s taking a little bit of the pressure off with the talented players around him, especially in the forward areas.”
In terms of your managerial experience, obviously it was very sad that we lost Eric Harrison recently and you attended the funeral. Do you think some of his methods are instilled in you?
“Yeah, I mean obviously Eric was a big part of my education in football. He wanted you to work hard but also wanted you to express yourself. He wanted you to enjoy your football. I think a lot has been said about him being a hard taskmaster, which he was, but all his teams played good football – the United way and an attractive way. I try to instil that attacking philosophy as well.”
Do you need that hard edge as well with footballers, even today’s footballers?
“You do. It’s getting more and more difficult, I think, but that’s for everyone of course. You need standards and I touched on that before. I want players to have a certain standard to perform and that’s what Eric did with us. The coaches and managers you work under, you take little bits from everyone. Eric was a big part of that as Sir Alex [Ferguson] was as well.”