Should Ryan Giggs Succeed Louis van Gaal to Save Manchester United's Season?

Sam Pilger@sampilgerContributing Football WriterJanuary 25, 2016

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19:  Manchester United assistant manager Ryan Giggs is seen prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on December 19, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In the wake of Manchester United's defeat to Southampton and yet another soulless performance, they are clearly in urgent need of someone to rescue their season. 

Could their saviour already be on the payroll and sitting right next to current manager Louis van Gaal? 

There is an obvious and appealing romanticism about appointing Ryan Giggs as manager, but in truth, we could be witnessing the Welshman’s final months at Old Trafford. 

After coming through the ranks as a local lad, Giggs became British football’s most decorated player, winning 34 major trophies, including 13 Premier League titles.

On the pitch, Giggs had impeccable timing. On the day he equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record as United’s all-time leading appearance-maker in 2008, he scored a decisive goal against Wigan Athletic to deliver his side yet another title. He surpassed it by winning his second Champions League just 10 days later.

He was 34 at the time but would go on for another six years, defying the ageing process to finish with a total of 963 appearances.

In his final season as a player, Giggs was also a coach under David Moyes, and after the Scot's sacking in April 2014, he took charge as caretaker manager for the final four games of the campaign.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12: Louis van Gaal, Manager of Manchester United and Assistant coach Ryan Giggs prior to the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Manchester United at Vitality Stadium on December 12, 2015 in Bournem
Steve Bardens/Getty Images

There was something that just looked right about Giggs proudly wearing a club blazer and sitting in the manager’s chair.

However, United were in too much disarray to hand the job to a rookie, and the club preferred to place its trust in the vast experience of Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014. Still, Giggs was too important, too symbolic to be allowed to merely walk away, and he was installed as Van Gaal’s assistant manager.

The plan was for Giggs to learn alongside Van Gaal as he stabilised the club before likely succeeding him in the summer of 2017.

Eighteen months on, this plan of succession would appear to be in tatters.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 16:  Manchester United Manager Louis van Gaal speaks with Assistant Ryan Giggs (L) prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on August 16, 2014 in Manchester, England
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Van Gaal has brought his own brand of stability to Old Trafford, but a sense of intense disappointment lingers over the club overall.

Turgid defensive football, a lack of goals, the wasted money on a long list of underperforming signings and just a general sense of boredom will be the Dutchman's legacy.

All this time, Giggs has sat next to Van Gaal on the bench looking distinctly uncomfortable at the football he is being forced to watch.

He, of course, has remained loyal and silent, but while Giggs can often be inscrutable, it is quite clear he doesn’t look a contented man.

It is no surprise his friends and former team-mates, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, have been critical of Van Gaal, as ESPN FC reported. The intriguing question is: Do they also speak for Giggs?

Even if Van Gaal manages to turn United’s season around, this was always a short-term appointment, and the club would likely be looking for a new manager this summer.

Many United fans are aching to see the former Wales international replace Van Gaal, throw off the shackles of his defensive football and return United to their attacking traditions and, in time, to the summit of the Premier League.

But after Moyes and Van Gaal, Giggs would be another riskanother unnecessary gamble. United are bruised and vulnerable; they need more of a sure thing.

Jon Super/Associated Press

If Giggs were to succeed Van Gaal, it would have to be from a position of strength rather than inheriting yet another squad rebuild. 

In hindsight, United might have been better off appointing Giggs as Ferguson’s successor in 2013, let him ride the wave of good feeling of his mentor’s final title-winning season and use his knowledge of the dressing room to rebuild.

United would have been more patient with Giggs than Moyes, allowed more mistakes, and an assured and confident manager may have emerged in time.

But the spectre of Wilf McGuinness' succession of Sir Matt Busby in 1969 meant United were determined not to let history repeat itself.  

Instead, the argument is increasingly to let Giggs leave, get some experience and then be welcomed back to Old Trafford.

But United have been here before, and it never happens.

In a different era, Bryan Robson was United’s manager-in-waiting. He left the club to gain experience at Middlesbrough, enjoyed some success but ultimately failed as a coach, and he was forever struck off the list of potential United managers. Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce and Roy Keane followed similar paths.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 06:  Manchester United Caretaker Manager Ryan Giggs looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Hull City at Old Trafford on May 6, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Im
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

But Giggs is a confident man; he would back himself to buck this trend and prove he was worthy of United on a sabbatical away from Old Trafford.

If United aren’t going to offer Giggs the main joband they shouldn’tit would be fair to allow him to leave this summer and forge his own managerial career.

At the end of last season, Van Gaal confidently predicted that the 42-year-old would be his successor, but the mood is different now. 

After nearly three decades at Old Trafford, the time is right for Giggs to move on and set himself the challenge of earning a swift return.


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