Manchester United: 5 Things We've Learnt from Ryan Giggs' First Team Selection
Prior to the game, in his pre-match press conference, Giggs spoke of bringing back the club's long-standing book of ethics following David Moyes' disastrous spell in charge, per Ian Herbert of The Independent:
It has been a frustrating season for everyone. We win together and we lose together. These four remaining games I want to put smiles on faces and bring the intensity back. I want to see goals. tackles, players taking on players. I want to see the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player.
With that being said, all eyes were on Giggs first team selection, which included a few surprises for the eager United fan:
#mufc team: De Gea; Jones, Vidic (c), Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa; Welbeck, Rooney.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 26, 2014
There is much to be learnt about United's new manager with this first team selection, and these are five choice factors to be taken away.
Experience Is Vital
One of the stand-out inclusions in Giggs' first team selection is that of many of United's old guard—namely Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra.
The veteran defensive trio are all set to leave the club in the summer on the expiry of their contracts; Ferdinand and Evra are yet to announce any long-term plans, while Vidic is already set to join Inter Milan in the summer, as per BBC Sport.
However, after surrounding himself with familiar faces—Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Philip Neville—on the training ground, Giggs has opted to continue this trend on the pitch at Old Trafford.
The Welshman will be hoping that those with long-standing experience of the club under the influence of Sir Alex Ferguson can restore the passion and ethics that he looked to emphasise.
Phil Jones Remains a Utility Player
One of the biggest criticisms of respective United managers following the £17 million acquisition of Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers in 2011 is his use as a utility player to the squad. Many would agree that the 22-year-old is best in his—arguably—natural position of centre-back, but in this line-up, Jones starts as a right-back.
In December, Robbie Savage wrote for BBC Sport about how Moyes can salvage his career at the Manchester club, focusing on making the most of Jones as the bedrock of any future back four:
[Moyes] needs to look to Phil Jones. His best position is going to be at centre half and that is where Moyes needs to play him now if he is to make the most of his talent.
Jones's problem at the moment is that he also plays in central midfield and right-back and, to be a top centre-back, you need to learn how to play that position properly.
This is an astute observation from Giggs' former teammate; however, unfortunately, Jones' new manager follows Moyes' suit. This season, the defender has been utilised 14 times at centre-back, seven as a right-back and nine times in the midfield, as per WhoScored.com.
Perhaps looking out for the club more in short term, Giggs continues to use Jones' versatility to paper over the cracks; any long-term United manager should heed Savage's words.
Welbeck, Cleverley Get Vote of Confidence
Two figures of derision within the United squad this season have been youngsters Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley. Cleverley in particular has become somewhat of a scapegoat for the misgivings of his teammates—both at his club and for the national team—but Giggs' selection suggests a belief in the pair.
This season, as per Squawka, Cleverley has been one of the club's best passers—along with Ferdinand, Juan Mata and peripheral figure Darren Fletcher—with an 89 percent success rate. And with Giggs looking for his side to maintain possession, he has likely opted for Cleverley to ensure this.
Elsewhere, with the club's attack lacking pace and penetration so far this season, the inclusion of Welbeck alongside Wayne Rooney in the attack gives Giggs' side the element of unpredictability.
Both long-standing United players—despite their young years—Welbeck and Cleverley will be well-versed in the mental qualities Giggs is looking for.
Taking cues from his mentor and ex-manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, Giggs on paper seems to have opted for a traditional 4-4-2 formation for his first team selection.
Under Ferguson, a United side—not to daub them predictable—could be expected to focus on pace down the flanks and solidity in the midfield, accented by a dominant strike partnership.
With this first XI, Giggs has chosen a solid back four with a pair of dependable central midfielders—Cleverley alongside Michael Carrick—complemented by Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia on the wings. Welbeck and Rooney will operate as a traditional attack pairing.
This does somewhat stymie the talents of Japanese playmaker Kagawa, however, which leads to...
No Room for No. 10s
Such is the rigidity of a traditional 4-4-2 that one of modern football's essential components—the playmaking No. 10—finds itself jettisoned.
In this first team selection, £42 million January signing Juan Mata has to settle for a place on the bench, Kagawa is shifted out wide and 18-year-old prodigy Adnan Januzaj is omitted from the squad completely.
This may be considered shortsighted of Giggs, but reverting to a traditional 4-4-2 formation could be what the floundering side need.
At times this season, the attacking talents of United's squad have been hampered by a squad flooded with immobile playmakers such as Mata and Kagawa, and—whilst their talents are undeniable—Giggs seems to be looking to bring a more traditional, pace-based game back to his side.
Naturally, this team selection is subject to Giggs' tactical work—Kagawa may shift inside; Welbeck may operate more on the flanks—but the Welshman's first game in charge serves up an intriguing selection nonetheless.
Do you agree with these observations? Has Giggs got it right with his first team selection? Let us know in the comments below.