Were this a football match, Ryan Giggs would be taking the ball to the corner flag and playing out time. A week after a relaxed, impressive debut in which he had looked more naturally cut out for the task of managing Manchester United than David Moyes ever did, Giggs was now aware that Old Trafford is not yet ready for its Pep Guardiola.
As Louis van Gaal assembles a considerable and wholly Dutch backroom staff, there may be a role for Giggs as a symbolic link to the past, a position Phil Thompson filled under Gérard Houllier at Liverpool and which Brian Kidd performs at Manchester City.
However, given Van Gaal’s autocratic manner, it would be arguable how much real influence Giggs would be given on the training pitches at Carrington.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s grand idea that Manchester United, like Bayern Munich, should be run by the men who used to play for the club appears over – at least for the time being. A man who is 63 in August is not a long-term appointment.
Giggs was asked about Van Gaal and replied without great enthusiasm that he had “a brilliant reputation and is a successful manager in different countries who has taken Holland to the World Cup”. It sounded like he was reading out a Wikipedia entry.
Nevertheless, Giggs still has some decisions to influence, not least his own playing future and those of Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand. On the second point, Giggs was adamant – he wanted both Evra and Ferdinand to stay at Old Trafford, although he was unsure whether the 45 minutes he played in the 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich on 1 April would be his last.
“I still think they have got a lot to offer. They have been great players and remain assets to a club like Manchester United. Is me playing giving us the best chance? We’ll see,” said Giggs who might copy Kenny Dalglish, who brought himself on as a substitute for a final time at Anfield against Derby in May 1990 with the championship already won.
Giggs has won 13 league titles and it is impossible to believe there will be any more as a player. However, despite the fact he has never finished lower than this in his time at Old Trafford, Giggs has been here too long to say that this is the most important summer in United’s Premier League history.
“No, I think every summer is important. After the treble-winning season in 1999, you asked: ‘Where do you go from here?’ The answer is always to try to improve. It’s not been a great season this year and it’s important that we get the right players in.”
Although it will disrupt their lucrative summer tour and may hinder their chances of making it back into the Champions League, Giggs is determined that United should try to qualify for the Europa League.
Should United overtake Tottenham, they will be competing in Europe’s second-tier competition next season and will have to play their first game on 31 July, when the club is midway through a coast-to-coast American tour. Giggs said that in those circumstances, United would most likely send a team composed of players resting after the World Cup and youth-team members to contest the first leg of the qualifier – which will be away.
“It has given me a headache trying to plan that and sort it out,” said Giggs. “I think Manchester United should be in Europe. Obviously everyone wants to be in the Champions League but the next step is the Europa League. I think that Manchester United every season should be in Europe.”