Paul Parker

Van Gaal or Giggs? Either way, United need to act quickly

Paul Parker

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As someone with ties to Manchester United (and as anyone who has ever played or worked for any football club will tell you, you’ll always harbour a soft spot for those teams to your final days), I cannot stress enough how frustrated I am with the latest reports regarding the managerial situation.

This is because, if the latest suggested developments are true, there is a conflict on the horizon between the favourite to replace David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and some of the coaching staff including caretaker boss and club stalwart Ryan Giggs.

If Van Gaal takes the job, there’s a very good chance he’ll replace the entire set-up with his own gang of talented footballers from the 90s: Patrick Kluivert, Danny Blind and co. That’s understandable, as is the current lot’s fear for their jobs.

But what annoys me the most is just how public all of this has been. It blighted Moyes’ 10-month reign and unfortunately there are very few signs that United airing their dirty corporate laundry was just a one-season fad.

Manchester United are simply not a football club who invite an audience to the conducting of their private affairs. Some clubs love to do that, but it’s not in United’s history. And when they did handle backroom matters with more decorum, they were a lot more successful than they have been this term.

I’ve actually become quite bored with the daily trials and tribulations surrounding the club. It’s becoming embarrassing to read.

We are all free to speculate and write blogs and debate on message forums, but that does not mean the businesses at the heart of these topics have to be doing so much to feed that speculation when they have more important things to do.

And if United are to write off 2013/14 as a one-off failure, the first thing they need to do is get back behind the four walls of club headquarters and only publicise things when they are ready to be made public.

As I write this, Ed Woodward is the first man to spring to mind. He must not repeat last summer’s transfer window fiasco.

Secondly, they need to make a decision about the next manager as soon as possible. Not just in time for pre-season training or the new transfer window – preferably as soon as the current season ends.

I’ve spoken out about Giggs’ shortcomings in trying to juggle playing and coaching more than once in the past, but if he really wanted to take over as manager full-time and is willing to call it a day in the summer to focus on it 100%, to be honest he probably has the same pros and cons for this particular job as Van Gaal. No more, no less.


At the same time, if van Gaal were to take the job he would no doubt want it on his terms – he’s the boss, no ifs or buts. Understandable, but he’d also be busy with the Netherlands squad at the World Cup for as long as until mid-July. That’s two months the club would need to spend carefully preparing for the new season on his behalf without treading on his toes.

Whichever route they choose to go down, or even if they somehow manage to convince one of the dozens of top managers to have come out and said they want nothing to do with the United job to change their minds, they need to do it very, very soon.

And if Giggs does find himself on the outside, regardless of what he does in these final three games, he may find it tough trying to build his managerial reputation outside Old Trafford.

It will seem like the wrong metaphor because prison is of course a very bad, negative analogy, but United has been like a prison to Giggs. When someone has been inside for decades and then suddenly finds themselves freed back into the outside world, they can find it very hard to re-adapt.

Not only that but, as I can personally attest, the percentage of ex-United players to have ventured away from the club on the managerial path and found great success isn’t very high.

If Giggs is serious about wanting to prove himself a better choice than Van Gaal, he needs to show he is serious, and fast.

Unfortunately it’s also very tough to envision the club finding their way back to the days of conducting their business privately if a media circus descends upon the concept of a ‘Class of 92’-run United.

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