The 40-year-old Welshman is the oldest player in the squad and has spent an incredible 29 years of his life at Manchester United. Following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, who brought the midfielder through the youth ranks as a boy, Giggs took on a coaching role with the Premier League champions. But can his own personal philosophy save the club from the grips of decline suffered under Moyes?
Giggs has spoken about his belief in the benefits of sport science in an interview with The Guardian recently, and the veteran Red Devils’ ace has been a keen practitioner of yoga for decades as part of his health and fitness regime.
“We did some stuff on sport science, we've got five or six sport scientists at Man United,” he said earlier this year.
Fitness is clearly something that Giggs takes seriously as well as preparation, conditioning and, I would suspect, in terms of sport psychology too. Being a yoga man, one would expect that energy and core strength as well as mental well-being could be a big part of his training regime, which could definitely improve the fitness levels of players like Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and veterans like Rio Ferdinand.
Moyes had been criticised by some for his ‘dinosaur’ training regime, which seemed to be impeding the fitness and conditioning of his players, which, if Giggs focuses on repairing, could see fewer injuries to star players at Old Trafford.
Giggs is soft-spoken and while he is not a shy as his colleague Paul Scholes, he is not one to rant and rave on the pitch, the touchline or in the dressing room.
"The other coaching courses you go on, you would do a bit of preparation and a bit of planning, but actually speaking and communicating, you probably wouldn't do a lot of. You would do it as player but wouldn't address a team or a group,” he explained.
His comments here suggest he would be more of a man-to-man coach in the traditional man-management style of working with players on an individual basis rather than as a group. That could be beneficial for youngsters especially like Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck, Alex Buttner, and Tom Cleverley who can benefit from his experience as a player-coach.
Giggs has effectively said he would not attempt to copy Ferguson:
"I think you've got to be natural as much as you can as a manager, find your own style, not try and be somebody else. Different people have different characteristics.”
What are Giggs’ characteristics as a player and a man? As a player he has always been attacking and played with pace and tenacity and as a club veteran he leads by example on the pitch with the never say die attitude of a Red Devils’ star. Now in his latter years he has become a pass technician, plays with vision and creativity around a system of possession retention.
As a man he is a fairly quiet and private fellow, modest and straight-talking so I can’t see him displaying the kind of hubris of Jose Mourinho or the control-freak style of Ferguson. I think he may well be United’s equivalent to Pep Guardiola if he stays on and is given the freedom to implement his ideas as a coach.
His influences and points of reference as a coach seem to be noted as Mark Hughes, Roy Keane, Paul Ince and Steve Bruce whom he seems to have most admiration for. The kind of caring coach, the coach who wraps his arm around the youngsters and gives them belief and confidence appears to be his ideal role model.
If he takes the tough-love approach of Keane and expects discipline from the players who respect him, as well as offering support in that Bruce mould, you would expect he can build the confidence back up in the players as well as ensuring there is a full commitment of 100 per cent. I think the current squad are crying out for that kind of leader and it could really relieve them initially as well as buoy them in the future.
System and Style
"I think what this course does teach you is that there is no right or wrong way, so I might have a playing philosophy but you have to be adaptable as well. Maybe you haven't got the players to play that way, which was what Carlo Ancelotti was saying,” he continued.
"I found that really interesting, it was similar to me, growing up on 4-4-2 really. He didn't sign Roberto Baggio because he didn't fit into his philosophy at the time. So you have to be adaptable and maybe not be: 'I'm going to play like this.' You evolve really."
Looking at this comment especially, it appears he would like to fuse the kind of attacking 4-4-2 of the past under Ferguson with an adapted approach to best suit the players in the squad at present.
Given the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Adnan Januzaj, and Antonio Valencia, an attacking 4-4-2 or more like a 4-4-1-1 would ideally suit Giggs’ United. Van Persie could play as the target-man with Wayne Rooney as the second striker; Juan Mata could play behind the No.10 in his favoured position as the attacking central midfielder with the protection of Michael Carrick alongside him, the pace of Valencia outside him and Januzaj’s quality to offer support coming in off the flank.
The fullbacks can always push up to offer support so the Red Devils don’t get overrun in midfield and Wayne Rooney can drop deep to combine with the record signing or push forward to feed Van Persie.
Given that Giggs is a former winger, I would expect him to create more width in the play to make space for Van Persie, Rooney and Mata to operate in the central areas. Likewise, Giggs was never lazy to get back and support his fullback behind him, so I would expect him to ensure there is more defensive focus from the whole team to stop the team leaking goals as they have done under Moyes. Who knows, in the months and years to come maybe there will be a banner at Old Trafford reading ‘Ryan Giggs is a Genius’.