The Golden Boy

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Well ta muchly, Sir Alex, but your last recommendation didn’t turn out very well. Sir Alex Ferguson, at a Manchester United event this week, stated publicly that he believes that Ryan Giggs should be given the top job at Old Trafford on a permanent basis. Giggs has been ushered in, like a white knight, in the wake of the utter disaster that was the David Moyes era, to “put the smiles back on the faces of the fans” as the interim manager. He is set to oversee the last 4 games of the season, ideally to pick up 4 wins, and to lighten the mood. Ryan Giggs is the most decorated British footballer. He has been a career-man at United, their most adored, most favoured son. He has extended his playing career into his fifth decade and is still capable, as he showed in the second leg against Olympiacos, of directing a match at the highest level. He has never been sent off while playing for United. He has never aggravated for a transfer, or held the club to ransom over a new contract. He has grown, in front of the Old Trafford crowd, from the electrifying boy wonder, the ever-threatening wing maestro, to the stalwart team man, a model of reliability, to the elder statesman, now more centrally located, who oozes composure. On the field, for nearly a quarter of a century, Giggs has set an example to which every Manchester United player should aspire. He is a great choice for interim manager. But he should not be the person to take the job permanently.
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“So you’re handing it over to me next season?” 
“No, I’ve got another guy lined up. He’s gonna make them miss me so damn much!”

Why is Ferguson doing this? Giggs has zero management experience, let alone the experience that is required to take the reins at England’s most successful club. Has the Moyes saga not taught us anything? Has it not unequivocally shown that not all managers, even ones who have had moderate success at mid-level clubs (like Moyes had had) are suited to the task of managing the elite clubs? Moyes was a respected manager, a man who had firmly established Everton in the Premier League over a ten year period, and he couldn’t cut it. The blow that his sacking will have on his reputation will be devastating. This blow shouldn’t be repeated on another, infinitely more loved, victim. It is well established that a successful playing career does not automatically equate to some increased talent for management. Yes, great players have become great managers; Kenny Dalglish (the first time) is an example. Pep Guardiola was a great player. But so were Maradona, and Paolo Di Canio, and Jurgen Klinsmann, and Clarence Seedorf. None have shown themselves to be great managers, yet. Mourinho wasn’t particularly successful as a player, neither was Arsene Wenger, and neither, in fact, was Alex Ferguson. But it didn’t hinder them as managers; it might even have helped them, allowing them to relate to the game in a more detached way.

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Paul Ince’s playing career proved invaluable to him as a manager. What insight.

And yet, with his own career as an example to the contrary, Ferguson said of Giggs’ managerial credentials, that

 
“He’s got 20-odd years of experience at Manchester United. I signed him as a kid at 13 years of age. He’s gone through the gamut of emotions at the club – he’s experienced all the highs and lows. He knows exactly what’s needed to be a Manchester United player…”
 
As if Giggs’ experiences when he was playing at age 18 can provide some special secret that will help him tactically outwit Jose Mourinho in a cutthroat Premier League tie. Knowing what it is to be a Manchester United player gives you no insight into knowing how to be the Manchester United manager.

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All right, chaps, if you could all please do this, then we’ll win. 
It’s difficult to question Ferguson, though. He is responsible for almost all of Manchester United’s success in the modern era. But, in handpicking Moyes (as well as the less than stellar condition the squad was in), he is also partially responsible for the absence of Champions League football that United will have to suffer for at least 18 months. Giggs, if given the chance, might become a great elite manager, straight out of the blocks. But it seems like a long shot. And if United again take Ferguson’s advice and give Giggs a permanent contract, the image of their favourite son, their Welsh Wizard, could well be tarnished if his tenure proves to be anywhere near as disastrous as Moyes’ was. Why take the risk? Consecutive seasons sans Champions League would only add to the already considerable Glazer debt. If Van Gaal can be secured, or Klopp seduced, then they have to be preferable to Ryan Giggs. I’m sure that the club would appreciate it if Ferguson could keep his opinions on the matter quiet, at least to the press.

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