Following David Moyes’ departure from Manchester United and before a new dawn was ushered in by the arrival of Louis van Gaal, Ryan Giggs was tasked with getting the club through their final four matches of last season.
The Old Trafford legend’s first match in charge saw one of the side’s best performances of the campaign, as United ran out 4-0 winners at home to Norwich City.
The clamour for Giggs’ permanent appointment was considerable, although it lessened when United slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Sunderland in his second match in charge.
After that came the James Wilson show against Hull City and a 1-1 final-day draw against Southampton.
In short, not a bad showing from a man who had never before managed a football team, let alone a top flight one; although ultimately United opted for van Gaal, with Giggs appointed as his assistant.
Following a summer of considerable change at Old Trafford, how does van Gaal’s new-look side compare with the 11 players Giggs may well have called his strongest this season, if he had ultimately been given the permanent job?
The Welshman has already made it clear that Rio Ferdinand would have gone nowhere if he had been in charge, while the deals for Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera were seemingly all but done during Moyes’ time at the club.
But there is a feeling that both William Carvalho and Toni Kroos could have also arrived under different circumstances, with United said to be closely monitoring both before van Gaal turned their attention elsewhere.
Under Giggs, there is every chance the Sporting Lisbon and then-Bayern Munich players would have arrived, while Danny Welbeck would surely have been retained, perhaps at the cost of Robin van Persie whose future looked in considerable doubt before van Gaal’s appointment.
Shinji Kagawa would also surely have remained, given the fact that Giggs put him in his starting line-up as soon as he could; something neither Moyes nor Sir Alex Ferguson appeared comfortable with.
Of course plenty will argue that Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and the like are a much better bunch of summer signings than those pondered above and included below. But just which side would have been more effective in the long term?
Louis van Gaal’s likely United XI – 5-3-2 formation
Goalkeeper: De Gea
Back-five: Valencia, Jones, Evans, Rojo, Shaw
Midfield-three: Blind, Herrera, Di Maria
Front-two: Falcao, Rooney
Ryan Giggs’s possible United XI – 4-3-1-2 formation
Goalkeeper: De Gea
Back-four: Rafael, Ferdinand, Jones, Shaw
Midfield-three: Herrera, William, Kroos
Front-three: Kagawa, Rooney, Welbeck