The Class of 92 have finally graduated. On Saturday the boys are taking over. Manchester United fans will discover whether they can win something now the kids are in charge.
In a technical area from which David Moyes spent eight months semaphoring distress signals, we will see a man who understands what United is all about. A man, moreover, who will be surrounded by those who get the place.
Over the last few months, as Moyes stuttered and crumbled, we can imagine the discussion that went on round at Ryan Giggs’s place (it has to be at his place they meet; none of the other guys’ wives would let him anywhere near their front room). Giggs, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, sitting round plotting what they would do if they were in charge. They’d have Gary Neville on speaker phone ringing in his ideas from the Sky Sports studios. And between them they would have reckoned they could do a lot better job than the man then supposed to be in control.
Now they have their chance. Four games they have to establish their credentials. Four games to show us they could make a difference. Starting on Saturday against their old skipper Steve Bruce and his Hull team, Giggs, Butt, Scholes and Phil Neville – together with Chris Woods, the only Moyes appointment deemed sufficiently competent to remain in his job - will be out to prove they can manage as well as they played. And if they can, boy are we in for a treat.
For those who believe in romance, the idea of the Class of 92 taking permanent control of United is irresistible. Tied to the place since they were teenagers, brought up in the city, devoted to the colours, these are the representatives of the proper soul of the club, the embodiment of the bond between player and fan. What a message it would send out to any young player making his way through the ranks at Carrington that the boss and his team were all once in their position. What better way to ensure United’s astonishing record of featuring a home grown player in every single first team squad since 1936 is maintained.
Not all great players make great managers. Not all great managers were great players (check out the men in charge of the top five clubs in the Premier League and you'll see that only Roberto Martinez had a playing career of any distinction).
But Giggs has all the pre-requisites to make the transition. He is bright, attentive, a stickler for detail. Plus, as we know from his private life, he has the gimlet-eyed, ruthless single-mindedness required to succeed in the toughest of professions. Of course not all great managers are bastards. But it helps.
Sadly there is absolutely no way – even if United win their four games under his charge – that Giggs will be appointed on a permanent basis. The club have already said that. His lifelong ambition to lead the club he loves will have to be put on hold.
Instead the board will hire one of the big beasts of the European game, a Champions League winner, a man of experience at the highest level. This is the way of football recruitment: you hire the opposite of the guy you have just let go. So if your last boss was a little quiet and undemonstrative you hire a showman. If your last boss had an ego the size of Amsterdam, you hire in a shy sort. So it is, after the disastrous appointment of Moyes, United will go for a man well-schooled in the ways of running a top club, a man who will not be intimidated – as the last man was – by the scale of the task presented to them.
And with that decision will come the end of any idea of dynastic succession. United, after 26 years of staying aloof from the managerial merry-go-round, will be plunged into the same endless appointment cycle as all the top clubs in Europe. Carlo Ancelotti and Louis Van Gaal, the two said to be at the top of their shopping list, have between them managed Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax. Not to mention Chelsea. They didn’t stay long at any of them. And if either of them do come, there is absolutely no chance they will still be in position in ten years' time. Not least because Van Gaal will be 74 in 2024.
Indeed it is entirely plausible to suggest that this coming month will not be the last time we will see Giggs directing traffic in the Old Trafford technical area. If, as is expected, he stays on this summer to assist the incoming boss, he may well be out there within eighteen months, once more stepping in as another casualty of the Ferguson succession is dispatched through the door.
Because of one thing we can be certain: although he took the blame, David Moyes is by no means solely responsible for the mess United now find themselves in. The huge number of problems in the squad Moyes inherited have not come close to being resolved. Whoever comes in will be faced with the unsolvable difficulty of trying to attract top names to a club no longer involved in the top competition, a vicious cycle from which Liverpool, for instance, have taken five years to extricate themselves.
United are in a crisis that cannot be resolved overnight. It will be no surprise if Giggs taking temporary control becomes a regular feature of United’s season over the next few years. Being United’s Tony Book: it isn’t quite what his ambition demands.
- Sports & Recreation
- David Moyes
- Ryan Giggs
- Manchester United