United man who transformed himself on the pitch works wonders off it, too

Old Trafford 3

Manchester United played their first match under the temporary stewardship of Ryan Giggs last weekend, but how did they do?

It all felt so much less tense, the mood so much more lifted. If the David Moyes era had carried with it an element of gloom, the Ryan Giggs era has begun with some gloss to it.

It may be just temporary, but the change of atmosphere was very much an indication of just how deep Manchester United were plunging into despair. So bad had the previous regime been that this seemed like vintage United. Some even went as far as to consider it similar to the Sir Alex Ferguson era. A claim made in the heat of the moment, bearing all sorts of emotional conjecture and very little calm context.

For this was, after all, a win against a relegation-threatened Norwich City side. But so much about the game was woven into the fabric of much more than the result.

It was about the shedding of the scars of recent past failures. That psychological block that the club could not move beyond needed instant removal now that the Scot had left. 

The change immediately transformed the dynamics. If the unsuccessful nature of Moyes’ working methods had caused stagnation, the sudden release brought about by his departure was the key point of the game.

Players looked refreshed and re-energised. Their play was also less laboured. From the first minute, it seemed as if the confidence had been regained, the intensity heightened and the pace quickened.

Yet, for all the positives, it still took 41 minutes for the first goal to be scored. Still, it was testament to how things had slightly changed. By the time Danny Welbeck was being pulled down in the area, United had already found significant joy from an attacking sense. Indeed, the penalty was a result of some sort of pressure.

Clinically dispatching the penalty was Wayne Rooney. That he became the first player to score in the Giggs era is tantamount to just how much things have changed at United. In the final days of Ferguson’s managerial career, it seemed as if Rooney was on his way out. Now, he is a fully integrated part of this club. 

His penalty just before half time set the stage and three minutes into the second half, Rooney got his second.

It seemed as if there was a sense of more adventure. Not only were they threatening, they also genuinely seemed to go for, and ultimately score, more goals.

They did so through Juan Mata. The Spaniard signed in January had started the game on the bench. But so much about him showed the change of moods towards two regimes. Under Moyes, any Mata omission was decried. Here, it was tolerated, accepted on the fact that the team still carried with it some attacking menace. His creative element however added to the occasion. The deftness of his touch and intelligence of his movement were enough to put Norwich under more significant pressure.

Mata however showed a new sense of life: a willingness to fight for his position now that a new man was in charge and the slate had been wiped clean. A battle to please the new manager by doing his best.

It showed in the other substitutes, too. Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez were lively. Similarly, across the whole team, players like Rio Ferdinand - who had seemingly been marginalised by Moyes - looked more like his old self.

In the end, it seemed like a transformation of sorts. Indeed, it is apt that the man to bring about that change was Giggs.

As a player, he has managed transformations in his own game to ensure his longevity. Whereas earlier in his career his game was all about pace and agility, it had in recent years transformed into one of intelligence and ingenuity.

Now as manager, his very presence has managed to transform an otherwise downward spiralling United. The descent - it seems - has been stunted.

The reality however is that Giggs found himself in an easier situation than what the real job description required of a United manager entails. 

Their league position is almost certainly assured, their fortunes resigned to the fact that their ambitions will not be met. In the same light, Giggs finds himself rectifying the situation plunged into by the Moyes era rather than trying to live up to the expectation of the Ferguson era.

It means that in truth, it is more difficult to judge what his true managerial capabilities are. Indeed, accompanied by the atmosphere of change in manager, it is not easy to establish whether the change in performance was solely down to Giggs.

At the same time, there could be an element of beginner’s luck to how well everything went.

However, in the midst of all that was a man who seemed to carry with him the air of someone who knew exactly what he was doing. The certainty may be that his role is on an interim basis, but such was the magic of his first ever managerial appointment that it could point to a future glittering career in that respect.

Lack of managerial experience means that the job required in rehabilitating United is still beyond the capacity of Giggs. In the interim however, the Welshman displayed that sustainable facet that has made him such an asset to United for many years.

When the club required him to step up to the occasion, he was more than willing - and able - to do so.

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