Yesterday, Manchester United announced that after 29 years at the club – assistant manager Ryan Giggs has left to pursue a first team manager role at another club. It is a blow to the United faithful who will watch the 2016/17 season without the legendary Welshman – the first season since 1990/91, when Giggs made his debut against Everton at Old Trafford.
With Jose Mourinho announced as Manchester United manager in May following the sacking of Louis van Gaal, it was inevitable that Giggs would leave the club as the Portuguese is likely to bring in his long time assistant Rui Faria. Faria has been with Mourinho at every club – starting back at U.D. Leiria at the turn of the century.
Having retired from playing after the 2013/14 season, Ryan Giggs has no choice but to leave the club that he made 963 appearances for – more than any other player in history for Manchester United.
Say Giggs had decided to stay on in some capacity at United, regardless of whether it was as a coach or working with the youth team (as what was being reported) – it would have been a demotion for a man who feels he has earned a right to have a crack at the top job. If he were to remain in the dugout and be present when Manchester City travel to Old Trafford on September 10th – he would look at the opposing dugout and see a man just two and a half years older than him, who is now in the hot seat of one of England’s leading clubs.
If Ryan Giggs has achieved very little in football management so far, then City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, is the polar opposite – having lifted the European Cup crown twice, both the La Liga and Bundesliga titles three times and countless cup wins (all in all – the Spaniard has won 21 honours at the top level). The former Barcelona man has been managing the elite of Europe’s finest since 2008, having succeed Frank Rijkaard.
In the summer of 2008, Barcelona were a stale, spend force in comparison to the side that lifted the club’s second European Cup in Paris only two years previous. Rijkaard was the man who had brought Ronaldinho and Deco to the club, whilst granting Lionel Messi his first team debut. Ironically, Joan Laporta decided against bringing Jose Mourinho to the club in favour of giving Guardiola a crack at the first team. A son of Barcelona, who was to follow in the footsteps of his mentor – Johan Cruyff.
If the Mourinho vs. Guardiola battles excite fans for the forthcoming season, many may be disappointed that one of United’s most favoured sons, hasn’t had a crack at the top job. Guardiola’s Barcelona blew away many a team around Europe with their passing carousel that saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s side gunned down twice in the space of three years. In between the two finals, Mourinho had notched up a treble with Internazionale – beating Guardiola along the way in what was a victory for pragmatic football. However, in years to come it would be the football played by Messi, Iniesta and Xavi that will live long in the memory. Yes, Guardiola inherited a side of true greatness with arguably the best player to have ever kicked a football – but he was given a chance to prove himself at a club that he embodied, a true son of Catalonia – and they were rewarded beyond their original expectations.
It is arguable that Giggs means more to Manchester United than Guardiola does to Barcelona (considering the Spaniard played for Brescia, Roma and for a few clubs in Qatar). The Welshman is a one club man and has been constant for over two and a half decades at United. From galloping runs down the wing, to turning defenders inside out, to elegant freekicks and to the later stages of his career, moving in field and playing through the middle. He has worked under notable three managers (Eric Harrison excluded) at the club; Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Moyes didn’t get a mention in his departing letter, but his time under Ferguson and van Gaal will have prepared Giggs for a top flight role that he will undoubtably get.
Giggs will again look to Spain and see Zinedine Zidane, arguably the finest player of his generation, winning the European Cup in his debut season with Real Madrid. United’s number 11 will feel that he deserves his shot at the big time and he will of course cite the success of Zidane and Guardiola as reasons as to why he should have been given a shot.
Sadly for Giggs, Jose Mourinho was considered by the board as the ideal candidate to replace Louis van Gaal after three disappointing seasons since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. With the imminent appointment (as assistant manager) of Faria, Giggs will no doubt feel his progression stalled and is right to depart at this time. Hopefully, this isn’t the last we will see of Ryan Giggs at the club and he could one day return to lead the club as Zidane and Guardiola have done at the places they were worshipped the most.