Giggs in prime position for long Reds future
Ryan Giggs has started adding new chapters to the most enviable coaching manual in modern-day football.
Whether Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United No.2 has ever actually jotted down the strategies, tactics and methods of his mentors in the way that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used to chronicle every training session in a diary is unclear.
But if Giggs has, it will be one heck of a volume he is compiling.
War and Peace would look like a children’s flipbook in comparison.
United’s hierarchy didn’t think the 40-year-old – the most decorated player in Old Trafford history – was ready for the big job when they sacked David Moyes last April.
Instead, Giggs was given a taster when he sat in for the final four matches of a troubled season as interim boss.
When van Gaal was finally appointed as Moyes’ successor there was a hint as to how the Reds’ top brass viewed the future panning out.
They had ditched the idea of another Sir Alex Ferguson-style dynasty as they had planned 12 months previously when they looked long-term and handed Moyes a six-year contract.
They got their fingers burned and bank balance dented over that strategy and 62-year-old van Gaal was presented with a three-year deal instead.
The caveat was that United would like their new Chosen One to keep Giggs on board in some capacity.
The logic being they wanted him to get even more education with the experienced ‘Iron Tulip’, hoping he will, in time, grow into the role of
Manchester United manager.
It’s the kind of holistic approach City are seemingly following with Giggs’ old adversary Patrick Vieira, the Blues’ Reserve team manager.
In old-fashioned football vocabulary it is the Liverpool ‘boot room’ style of planning for the future.
Nobody tells LVG he has to do something – but fortunately for United’s owners and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, Holland’s World Cup boss liked the idea of being able to dip into Giggs’ well of Old Trafford knowledge.
And from Giggs’ perspective it is another potential three years building up that managerial tome.
He has already had over two decade’s learning at the seat of the master in Sir Alex.
From boy to man, Giggs has soaked up the schooling on offer from the Scot.
As his old Class of ‘92 youth team boss Eric Harrison says he won’t have wasted one bit of that education.
“When I worked with Ryan, he just took everything in. Nothing went in one ear and out of the other. He’s a very sensible lad,” Harrison said.
“I used to call him a football nut because he took everything on board. He has got a chance to be a top manager.
“It would have been a tragedy if he had said ‘right, I am going to play golf every day’. He gets bored after five minutes if it is not football.”
Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his autobiography that he, too, believes the prodigy he let loose as a 17-year-old is capable of becoming a boss.
“Ryan could definitely be a manager because he’s so wise and players invariably respect him,” Ferguson wrote. “His relative quietness would not be a barrier. There are plenty of non-vocal managers. But your character must be strong.”
Ferguson and Giggs have a joint United trophy haul of 70 pieces of silverware and that’s not a shabby collection of experience the former player will have banked.
But even the agonising near misses and the 10 months of angst under Moyes will have provided much food for thought as Giggs builds up his own portfolio in the dug out.
Now it is van Gaal’s 28-year career as a manager that Giggs will be plugged into. It offers another fresh continental insight into the management game.
But it is not just the man in the hot seat that Giggs will have banked so much knowledge. Now he is assistant manager to van Gaal he will use the experience of working for some of Fergie’s senior coaches at club level.
Archie Knox, Brian Kidd, Steve McClaren, Carlos Queiroz, Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan all brought their varying personal brands of coaching styles and ways of assisting the manager as Fergie’s sidekicks down the years.
Not to mention those a little further down the food chain like Harrison.
With a contract until 2017 and the short-term project of getting United back on its feet again, there is every chance that when van Gaal reaches 65 he could be handing the reins over to Ryan Giggs.
And there will not be a better qualified person to handle the task.