Has 12 months in charge of Wales made Ryan Giggs a candidate for the Manchester United job?

Matthew Crist by Matthew Crist / 16 January 2019, 10:29

When Jose Mourinho departed Manchester United last December Ryan Giggs’ name was mentioned alongside the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Mauricio Pochettino as a possible replacement; so after a year in charge of Wales does the former United great deserve to be in such esteemed company?

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Giggs became the Wales national team manager in January 2018 and despite something of a lukewarm reaction to his appointment, supporters soon got behind the former Wales captain and his emphasis on youthful, attacking football.

And his reign couldn’t have started better as Wales thrashed the hosts 6-0 in the China Cup in Giggs’ first game in charge as Gareth Bale became Wales' all-time leading scorer by bagging a hat-trick.

The honeymoon didn’t last long though and his side was beaten 1-0 by Uruguay in the very next match of the tournament, a defeat which was followed-up by a goalless draw against Mexico in May with Giggs giving debuts to Matt Smith, George Thomas and Chris Mepham.

In his first competitive match however, Wales thrashed the Republic of Ireland 4-1 in the opening group game of the Nations League as he once again opted for youth and was rewarded thanks to fine performances from the likes of Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks.

But as so often in Giggs’ managerial career, one giant leap forward was quickly followed by two steps in the opposite direction as Wales were beaten 2-0 in Denmark just four days later with a certain Christian Erikson teaching the optimistic new boss a harsh lesson when it came to the reality of football management.

 

A disappointing 4-1 defeat to Spain was followed by an impressive 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in Dublin as Wales looked to prioritize their Nations League campaign in order to qualify for the 2020 European Championships; but such was the erratic nature of their results the new manager faced questions regarding his style of play.

Many felt that he was neglecting defensive solidity in his pursuit of attractive, attacking football – something which, ironically, Manchester United fans have been craving for years - yet a trait which appears to generate more concern at international level.

2018 ended in more disappointment for Giggs with Nations League elimination following defeat to Denmark along with a loss to an Albanian side ranked 60th in the world which capped something of a mixed bag for their new manager who admitted that the defeat, “cast a shadow” over his own assessment of his 12 months in charge.

After a year at the helm of Wales it’s clear that Giggs’ intention is to overhaul the squad by taking a chance on fresh, young talent which, though at times has been exhilarating, has also brought about frustratingly inconsistent results too, so is this alone enough to put him in the frame for an Old Trafford return in the summer?

It’s a well-known fact that the greatest managers in Manchester United’s history have all been celebrated for their longevity and lasting legacy at the club, something which was never going to replicated by the likes of Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, whereas their former winger might be just the man for the long-term.

Of course, we’ve been here before. Giggs briefly took charge of United for four matches following David Moyes’ departure with mixed success and was even touted as Louis van Gaal’s replacement when he was relieved of his duties in 2017 with Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill and Sir Bobby Charlton apparently supporting his appointment.

Having passed all the relevant badges Giggs has also fulfilled various roles at the club, from scouting to taking training and dealing with media commitments while his managerial coaching has no doubt benefited hugely from working as an assistant to Van Gaal as well as the time spent playing under Ferguson.

Of course, much of the speculation over Manchester United’s next manager has centred around more established names in the game with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino rumoured to be the club’s number one choice; but after a quarter of a century at the club surely the very least Ryan Giggs deserves is a chance to prove himself?

One of the biggest arguments against him getting the job would appear to be his lack of experience at the highest level, though years in the job didn’t really do three-time European Cup winner Jose Mourinho or former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Louis van Gaal any favours, both of whom left the club rather unceremoniously to say the least.

So if Ole Gunnar Solskjær does return to Molde in the summer and Mauricio Pochettino declines United’s advances then there’s every chance Giggs could be in the reckoning again, though whether his achievements with Wales would be enough to convince the doubters is up for debate.

As with most managerial appointments, the biggest issue could be timing and more mixed results in 2019 or even a downturn in the fortunes of Wales might just tarnish Giggs’s managerial reputation for good when it comes to taking over one of the biggest clubs in the world – just ask Gary Neville.

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