I caught that documentary the other night on the 4-match spell Ryan Giggs had as interim player-manager following the late season sacking of David Moyes at Manchester United earlier this year. If you can recall there was a lot of media and pundit/player commentary at the time saying that the board at Man U should award the permanent job to Giggs and pass the club baton on ‘within house’ having seen the external candidate (and Sir Alex’s personal choice as his replacement) fail abysmally. After all he was the Premiership’s most decorated player, scorer of over 150 goals and a real one-club player having appeared for ManU almost 1000 times over the last 22 seasons. It’s hard to dispute the logic of the argument. Then I watched the film…
That’s when I realised the old truism that great players don’t always make good managers. He had 4 games in charge and managed to win two, both at home against Norwich (who were subsequently relegated) and Hull City (in a trough of form and seemingly pre-occupied with an appearance in the FA Cup Final). He oversaw them lose a match (at home!) to Sunderland who were in the relegation zone at the time and draw the final match of the season away to Southampton. Now I’m not trying to sound clever or boastful but I reckon that my aunty Betty and I could have picked sides from ManU’s galaxy of fabulous players and managed to deliver results at least as good as that. 7 points out of 12 against three poor and one mid-table side is hardly going to get the boards of Barcelona, Bayern and Real calling Giggsy up at home and begging him to become their next manager is it?
I can see the issues. He’s a nice guy, friendly-mannered and quietly spoken. But he’s not a strong personality. He doesn’t come across as a leader. He surrounded himself with no fewer than 3 old team mates, in Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, to help him come to a conclusion on team selections. That’s like management by committee – hopeless. He admitted that he couldn’t sleep at night worrying about who to leave out of the team. Really? He spent 22 years as a team mate to these players and nobody probably knows them better than Giggs. Any potential manager would have known precisely who were his trenches men and who were the untrustworthy ones having trained, played, and socialised with them every day for two decades. And yet ask him to put his first XI names on the board and he was indecisive Ian. Nor did he seem to have a philosophy about the way they should play other than with pace and courage and something about ‘the Man U way’. Yeh but what formation, what tactics, what strategies for beating the competition, what mind games could he employ to get to the opposition? He didn’t really have any clues. Worst of all he couldn’t make up his mind whether to play himself or not.
Oh Ryan. Great footballer, great with the ladeez too it seems but not a No 1. He’s been appointed Van Gaal’s No2 and that seems a sensible choice. He’ll be the Dutchman’s eyes and ears into the squad and that’ll be his natural level I reckon. He talks about learning his craft under LvG but if he didn’t learn anything about how to manage spending 22 years under the most successful and ruthless manager the Premiership has seen, he ain’t going to learn much from a flying Dutchman who’s just passing by. And I’d change from being referred to as Giggsy. It’s never going to make people quake is it? Time to grow up lad.