February 18, 2012
Giggs has what it takes to manage Man U
By JAMES LAWTON, Special to QMI Agency
Ryan Giggs, the 38-year-old Welshman whose enduring brilliance on the field for Manchester United has underpinned one of the greatest sustained surges of success in the history of soccer, acquired a new distinction this week.
According to an impeccable source ó no less than the author of all those triumphs, Sir Alex Ferguson ó Giggs has become a serious runner in pursuit one of the most prestigious jobs in all of professional sport, which is to say Fergusonís.
If it happens, if a nice idea gathers force and becomes a serious possibility, no one should doubt when it was that the superb player announced a penchant for leadership.
It was in the first week of January this year at a most pivotal moment in the history of United when Giggs stepped beyond the meaning of all those years out on the field.
His impact for one morning of his life at the training ground was more biting than even the rhetoric of his mentor Ferguson, which was saying quite a lot in the circumstances of two withering defeats by Blackburn Rovers, of all unlikely people, and Newcastle United, that left local rivals Manchester City running clear at the top of the Premier League.
Giggs addressed his teammates in a way that many will never forget.
He didnít just talk of a breakdown in performance, however shocking it had been. He didnít dwell on the huge story of the week, the dropping and fining of Wayne Rooney after a desultory training session.
Giggs said that in the course of more than 20 years and 800 games of historic effort, he had never known the attitude of the team to be so slack and so low on the pride which had always been implicit in the wearing of Unitedís red shirt.
It was the kind of address which often comes on the eve of a battle or a dangerous sortie and it is guaranteed to make people think about who they are and what is expected of them.
A few years earlier, around the time of the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, Ferguson had contrived a set-piece of similar potential.
He had Sir Bobby Charlton speak to the team about how it was to lose so many brilliant young colleagues on the snow-blanketed airfield in Germany. The Busby Babes were names from an old page of football history but Ferguson wanted extraordinarily talented players like Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to have a better sense of what they had come to represent. It was an exercise in education and most said it worked rather well, at least for a while.
The Giggs initiative was, apparently, somewhat more visceral. It wasnít about great players who had gone but those with perhaps the same potential who were falling short.
He said that in recent games he simply hadnít recognised the United which had been at the centre of his professional life for so long.
Though it is still early days in the title race, Giggs may well have made a vital intervention, certainly there is a case to say that his call to arms has helped yield 13 from a possible 15 league points and some of the most commanding performances from Rooney since his tailspin at the end of the 2009-10 season. It is certainly an arresting pointer to the possibility that too often in the past great clubs have neglected the experience of some of their finest players. Would Pep Guardiola, for example, have waxed so brilliantly had he been required to hone his managerial skills in some worked-out mining town in Asturias or a no-hope team in the backend of Navarre rather than being absorbed by a Barcelona culture he knew so well?
So why not Giggs for United; why not invest in such an iconic figure? Why not a figure who was groomed from the moment Ferguson first declared him a protected species as the world rushed to embrace the new George Best.
Giggs was not Best, said Ferguson, he was simply a young player of immense and precocious promise who had to be protected from the worst consequences of the celebrity life.
Giggs knows now a lot more about that condition, and he has a failed super-injunction and revelations about romantic liaisons to prove it, but untouched, it is suggested by Ferguson, is an understanding of the dynamics of a winning football club.
Of course perceptions in such a business can change as swiftly as a gust of wind. However this one, thanks to 20 years of brilliance and one cold morning of bitter truth, might not so easily blow out.