Manchester United 4 Norwich 0: Flying winger becomes driving force for revival

Dignified Welshman commands instant respect from players and fans

The 1992 Committee had done its job. Old Trafford rediscovered its voice and its sense of destiny to celebrate the reinvention of Ryan Giggs. He was suited rather than booted. In a club blazer, as opposed to the red shirt that he has worn 962 times. A global brand magnet repositioned as a modern football club executive.

His first foray into the technical area was to berate Wayne Rooney, an act which may in future generations come to define culture shock. Rooney scored twice without obscuring the reason why the Welshman was required to replace David Moyes as Manchester United’s ninth post-war manager.

United did not need to play well to beat a Norwich team sleepwalking towards the Championship which was just as well. Though a facile victory was rapturously received, Giggs will recognise instinctively the limitations of accommodating opposition. The virtues of teams with which he is identified – pace, intensity and courage under fire – were missed without being essential. 

FOLLOW ALL TODAY'S PREMIER LEAGUE ACTION HERE

He has three matches left to, at the very least, secure himself a place alongside the next manager. Though the lobbying campaign for Louis van Gaal is shaping the narrative of the recruitment process, the influence of United’s old boy network should certainly not be under-estimated.

Executive chairman Ed Woodward, a non-football man, is leading the search but he understands the commercial connotations of retaining Giggs as a symbol of the club’s heritage. He had walked into the arena to a howl of hope, some 15 yards behind a phalanx of his support staff, at the head of which strode Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes.

 Names were sung in recognition of better, more reassuring times. “The story continues,” screamed the front page of the match programme in which Giggs spoke about United being “the rock” on which his life is based. “Attack, attack, attack” ordered the Stretford End before a rousing chorus of “Ryan Giggs’ red army”.

The man who may yet succeed the man who failed to justify the faith of The Man is used to such homage. He tossed his laminated gameplan into the midst of his substitutes before calmly signing autographs on the way to his seat.

The occasion contained all the requisite clichés, from the bespectacled boy thrusting a homemade “In Giggsy We Trust” placard at the TV cameras to the braying stadium announcer hailing “the world’s greatest football club”.

His invitation to “welcome the Barclays Premier League champions” might not have been as well-judged given the prosaic knowledge that victory offered only the prospect of Thursday flights in the Europa League. 

Last week, of all weeks, highlighted the futility of soaring sentimentality. The carefully constructed morality play of United’s torch being passed to Moyes, another anointed son of Glasgow, collapsed in a dispiriting sequence of claim, counter-claim and contractual compensation.

The eyes naturally focused on the sweeping second tier of the Stretford End where once “The Chosen One” banner hung. The self-defeating, strangely demeaning emblem of Moyes’ management had been hastily replaced by a slogan, in white capital letters on a red background which read “MUFC – The Religion”.

These things rarely ring true because they are too contrived. They mock the spirit of more authentic entreaties and eulogies which tend to be scrawled on stolen bedsheets. They belong to a world of  plastic flags, superficial emotions and “supporters” who have the curiosity and distance of tourists.

At least the sight of Giggs standing on the touchline in the late spring sunshine contained reminders that a genuine United legend was in the house.

The club to which he has given such service may have mutated into a commercial monolith, but he continues to embody the spirit of the institution Matt Busby rebuilt and Alex Ferguson regenerated. Men like Giggs come with their own mental highlights package which endure because the brain lacks the in-built obsolescence of modern technology. The memory is such a powerful tool he can be re-programmed to be at his best in soft focus or sepia print.

Pick your moment, choose your timeframe. A certain generation remember the Giggs of the weaving run and full chest wig in that fabled FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal. Even older fans trace his bloodline back, through George Best, to Busby Babes who trained on Tarmac.

Bookmakers hired vans which offered odds on United “keeping it in the family” by making the audition permanent.

Investment bankers on Wall Street don’t tend to be swayed by nostalgia, relief and renewed optimism so Giggs’ starting price of 20-1 was probably fair.

He pointedly restored Danny Welbeck to the team and, even more pertinently, left Marouane Fellaini, Moyes’ ill-judged signing, out of the match day squad. There was minimal pressure, and no sense of expectation.

At times it was even possible to hear the drone of the plane, hired by a group of Maltese fans, which trailed a mocking “Thank U Moyes”. His thoughts at such tawdry disrespect could only be imagined.

The deposed manager’s text message to the United We Stand fanzine, sent at 9.55pm on Friday evening, was poignant: “Would you please let it be known how much I appreciated the support I got from the real United fans. They were incredible. I am sorry I couldn’t give them the results they are all used to. Thanks. D Moyes.”

The King is dead. Long live the Crown Prince, for the time being.

Suggested Topics
News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
newsRetailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
people
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?