Will Louis van Gaal be the manager of Manchester United next season?
Ryan Giggs will walk out at Old Trafford tomorrow night in what could well be his final home appearance for Manchester United, either as one of the most decorated players to have ever graced a football pitch or even in his short managerial role. Giggs has played 962 times for United, that is 204 more appearances than Sir Bobby Charlton, who he overtook that evening in Moscow back in 2008. Looking back to that rainy night, it would be hard to imagine United in limbo less than a season without the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.
David Moyes had a torrid time in the hot seat, a seat that will forever be reminded of the task at hand with with the name of the greatest manager of all time plastered across the stand it faces. Moyes couldn’t even start to rebuild and was sacked following the 2-0 defeat away at Everton. United now know they have to get it right as another season without Champions League football will be catastrophic for the club. The two main contenders are club legend Ryan Giggs or the disiplinarian Dutchman Louis van Gaal, who won the Champions League with a young Ajax side in 1995. Who would you pick?
The Pep Guardiola nostalgia choice
Whenever there is a managerial merry-go-round, Pep Guardiola is usually branded around as the blueprint to success. A visionary midfielder that encapsulated all of what Barcelona stood for. Under the guidance of Johan Cruyff, Guardiola was part of the 1992 dream team, beating Italian Champions Sampdoria in the final at Wembley. Nineteen years later, with a European Cup already under his belt – he returned to Wembley to completely blow away Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. If United were beaten in Rome two years previous, this performance from Guardiola’s men was off the chart. I personally have never seen a side compete to a level of that magnitude.
When Guardiola took over in 2008, he had zero managerial experience in top flight football only managing the Barcelona ‘B’ team for a single term. Ryan Giggs has only been in charge at United for two games and has tried to steady a ship in the most turbulent of waters faced in recent history. Giggs has been at the club for over twenty five years and United is instilled in his DNA. Having coped with the comparison with George Best in his early career, he shunned the opportunities to head to Inter Milan and became a intricate part in triumph after triumph at Old Trafford. His lung bursting runs down the wing and subsequent crosses represented everything that is true of Manchester United. Youth, width and attacking football. His ridiculous solo goal against Tottenham back in 1992 showcased that very talent. Brave to pick the ball up, flair and balance was all on show.
Can United’s most decorated player transfer that to the managerial hot seat? It will surely be extremely difficult to have any sort of impact that is comparable to his playing career – otherwise he will surely outdo Sir Alex Ferguson! One clear stumbling block is he will be going from team mate to coach to gaffer within the space of twelve months. There is no doubt considerable amount of respect for United’s number eleven, even from rival players – but when you’re not playing under a player that was your teammate for over five season – it can be difficult to manage. Giggs even touched upon this after the 4-0 victory over Norwich – and it is easier to talk about players missing out when you’ve hammered the opposition.
Another issue is, will an unproven manager be trusted with much needed transfer funds in the summer? Its currently unknown territory for Giggs and the board will surely favour an experienced manager who has proved worth in developing young players to be sold for a hefty profit – surely a favourable attribute for the Glazer family? Giggs has stated that he may well leave United to further his coaching career, which could well indicate that he will not play any sort of assistant role to a new manager, despite reports that he has been offered a position under van Gaal.
Lastly, Guardiola had the genius of Lionel Messi emerging alongside the pass masters Xavi & Iniesta and invested wisely in the purchase of Gerard Pique. Adnan Januzaj has had an impressive debut season, but United do not boast the same talent that Guardiola inherited from Frank Rijkaard back in 2008.
Is Louis van Gaal the man to turn United around?
On Eric Cantona’s 29th birthday back in 1995 in the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna – Louis van Gaal achieved greatness. Ajax had previously dominated the European Cup in the early 70s, winning a treble of titles and were now back in the big time to face the all conquering AC Milan, who had destroyed Cruyff’s Barcelona the season before. The Italians had Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Marcel Desailly, whilst the Dutch had a number of youngsters who had just come through the ranks – in the form of Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars and substitute Patrick Kluivert. It was Frank Rijkaard, the former Milan hero, that won the ball and played in Patrick Kluivert to score the only goal of the game. It was a marvellous victory for an extremely young and inexperienced team to win their first European Cup crown in over twenty years.
Since that night in Vienna, van Gaal has won trophies all over Europe and will now travel to Brazil to participate in the World Cup with his country of birth. There are many that also believe that Bayern Munich, who brushed aside everyone they face in the Champions League last season still have the foundations set by the Dutchman who was in charge from 2009 to 2011 at the Bavarian club. He was also in the charge in the epic 4-4 tie between Manchester United in 2010, when United went out on the away goals rule. The Holland manager had pedigree, he has experience and he has won titles in different countries, is he the man to lead United forward into the next chapter.
There was an interesting interview with Mehmet Scholl, who suggested that a number of players could find it hard to adapt to van Gaal’s strict policies may sit uneasy with some of United’s established stars – naming Wayne Rooney as one of those players. Scholl, who worked under the Dutchman at Bayern Munich as the reserve team coach, believe van Gaal is a ‘genius’ and prefers to mould youngsters rather than older players. The former German International was quoted as saying:
“He’s very strict and severe. So the players just have the chance to follow him or they are out and he takes the next players. He’s very good with young players. I think everywhere he was he had some problems with big players and the staff. His thing is really working on the pitch – that’s brilliant. And that’s how the players learn. You know by yourself that if you learn from somebody you are curious, you want to learn more. Some of the players, I can tell you, like Rooney, I don’t think he has to learn anything more. So that will be difficult for him if the coach says: ‘You have to do it in a completely different way. Whatever you did until now, change it.’”
Ryan Giggs could well make his last appearance at Old Trafford tomorrow, either as a player or manager. The heart obviously hopes that there will be a place for the most decorated player in the club’s history, but – as we saw with David Moyes’ dismissal of an established back room staff – it doesn’t always work out how you’d like it to. If the decision if announced that the Dutchman will be the new Manchester United, hopefully Ryan Giggs will be part of the evolution, before taking charge himself.