LONDON: Following a record-breaking playing career, Ryan Giggs is poised to enter uncharted territory after being named as the interim successor to sacked Manchester United manager David Moyes.
As English football’s most decorated player and United’s record appearance-maker, he is guaranteed to receive the full backing of the club’s fans, but management represents a step into the unknown.
Giggs, however, has been preparing himself for a career in the dug-out.
The Welshman has been studying for his UEFA Pro Licence -- European football’s highest coaching qualification -- and was promoted to United’s coaching staff by Moyes at the start of the season.
Speaking last year, Giggs’s former United team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, now manager at Cardiff City, said that the midfielder already had designs on the Old Trafford hot-seat, then occupied by Alex Ferguson.
“He’s looking at that United job for himself, Giggsy. He’s got top potential,” Solskjaer said.
“Giggsy is going to play another year, but I’d say he’s got his eyes and ears open more to what the manager is doing.”
Former United assistant manager Rene Meulensteen, meanwhile, believes that Giggs possesses all the necessary credentials to make a success of life in the dug-out.
“Without a shadow of doubt, Giggs can be a manager. He’s got enormous knowledge about the game,” the Dutchman told the Daily Telegraph earlier this year.
“He’s a very good thinker. He’ll be a very shrewd decision-maker. He’s tough. Believe me, Giggs is tough. He’ll handle the media and the stress with ease. It’s about getting the right guys about him.”
Giggs has defied convention by continuing to play into his 40s, but having been used sparingly by Ferguson, who retired last year, he saw his playing time diminish significantly under Moyes.
Having averaged 34 appearances over the previous four campaigns, he has played only 21 times this season and has made only four starts since the turn of the year. It prompted reports of a fall-out with Moyes, but Giggs insisted that he had “no problem with the manager”.
He demonstrated his enduring importance with a magisterial display as United overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit by beating Olympiakos 3-0 in the Champions League last 16, prompting disbelieving plaudits from his team-mates.
“What’s left to say about him?” said midfield colleague Michael Carrick.
“He is just incredible. He comes into a game like that and he hasn’t played a lot of football, so to physically be able to do it and get through a game shows how well he looks after himself.”
However, Giggs lasted only 45 minutes of the quarter-final first leg against Bayern Munich, and with his contract due to expire at the end of the campaign, talk of retirement had already begun.
The player himself was coy when asked about his future plans last month, saying: “I am just trying to enjoy this season and then at the end I will take stock and see what I want to do.”
Whatever he achieves in the United dug-out, Giggs is already certain to leave a historic legacy at Old Trafford. His 962 appearances are unlikely ever to be surpassed, and some of his goals -- such as the season-defining solo effort against Arsenal in a 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay -- have passed into United legend. A devilish tormentor of opposition right-backs when he blazed onto the scene in the early 1990s, Giggs has refined his game in recent years and now operates more often than not as an elegant midfield playmaker. AFP