Ryan Giggs' Wales gamble pays off and keeps his United dream alive
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is forging ahead with his plans to re-shape Manchester United. It was the chance his ex-teammate Ryan Giggs desperately hoped to have himself.
Giggs had a brief spell as United caretaker boss in 2014, and was a breath of fresh air after David Moyes was sacked.
He wanted the job full-time, but was overlooked and spent two largely frustrating years as Louis van Gaal’s assistant.
By time Jose Mourinho was appointed in 2016, Giggs realised he could not go on in the background. With every passing day, his reputation was diminishing.
Giggs still has hopes to manage United one day, but it was clear he had to earn it, and be bold enough to take the next step.
His first job in management was always going to be crucial. If he failed, he likely would not have got another chance anywhere.
Landing his first opportunity was tough enough. He was overlooked for a Swansea City job he applied for, and his lack of experience counted against him.
Finally he landed the Wales job in early 2018, after 18 months on the sidelines.
The Wales job looked like it might be too big for rookie Giggs at first. Taking over from popular Chris Coleman who inspired their run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals was a tough ask.
He made a rod for his own back by axing senior players like Ashley Williams and relying on young talent like Dan James, but those decisions are now paying off.
Wales clinched Euro 2020 qualification this week with a 2-0 win over Hungary.
Giggs made his doubters eat their words. Even back in the summer, qualification had seemed unlikely.
Wales star Joe Allen told The Guardian that he felt Giggs should take the credit: “It was always going to be tough but he has got us there. I think questions have been asked of everything really – selection, tactics – but nine times out of 10 he has got it right. That is one of the big reasons we have made it.”
Giggs’ former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson also paid tribute to the achievement.
Sir Alex told The Mail: “Ryan was always going to be a top man. He is intelligent, he has great drive about him and is doing a great job with Wales. And giving young players a chance too. It is fantastic.”
There were questions about Giggs’s ability to be a manager. Did he have the charisma to inspire players? What did he actually do alongside Louis van Gaal?
It appears he has learned his lessons and has players buying in. Now at Euro 2020 next summer he can add to his reputation.
United dream not dead
Ryan Giggs knew that to get another chance at Old Trafford, he would have to take a job elsewhere first. Perhaps more than one.
But if he failed in his first job, his dream could have been over.
His success with Wales keeps his long term goal alive, and whatever happens at Euro 2020, just getting there is an achievement.
Giggs may view himself as unfortunate that he was not out of work when Jose Mourinho was sacked and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was surprisingly called in as a temporary replacement.
Who knows if Giggs would have been first choice, and what might have happened next? But he could not afford to wait around for that call, just on the off chance.
Giggs’ reputation had been damaged by his stint alongside Van Gaal, and a lack of bravery to take on another position. There was a perceived arrogance that he just ‘expected’ to be given the United job one day based on his achievements as a player.
What is interesting is that he shares a similar approach to Solskjaer, a willingness to trust young players. It might be argued that his tactical decisions are even bolder.
For now, Solskjaer has the United job, and Mauricio Pochettino now lurks in the background.
Big names managers like Massimiliano Allegri are also out there, should Solskjaer fail.
Going from Solskjaer to Giggs might be too similar for some, but there is a natural progression there next summer or in two years time if the Norwegian hits the wall, and Pochettino and Allegri have found jobs elsewhere. A refreshed and confident Giggs could continue the United project.
Giggs will feel his United caretaker stint was wrongly cut short, and wants the chance to do it for real again one day.
It might be that he wants to lead Wales to the 2022 World Cup and further strengthen his case.
Eventually his destiny may come calling. Failure with Wales would have been a critical blow, but for now, his dream is alive and well.
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