Ryan Giggs intends to “bring back the smiles on the faces of the fans” and get the team playing like Manchester United again as he prepares for his first match in interim charge. The 40-year-old has described it as “the proudest moment of my life” to be given the temporary reigns of a club which he has been involved with for 26 years following David Moyes’ sacking on Tuesday.
Moyes finally paid the price for a dismal first season in charge as he struggled desperately to fill the void left by Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure and adjust to the sheer size and scale of the club. The Premier League champions head into their final four matches of the season in seventh place, 23 points behind leaders Liverpool. Giggs, though, explained that he did not give it a second thought when asked by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to take the reins for the remaining weeks of the campaign while the club seeks a new permanent manager
“When Ed asked me to look after the team for the remaining four games, which I had no hesitation in saying yes to, from then on yes it’s been a crazy week,” he told MUTV. “I’ve got to say it’s the proudest moment of my life. I’ve supported Manchester United all my life, it’s been the biggest part of my life since I was 14.”
Only the scant consolation of a place in the Europa League is left to play for, with United having to close a six point gap, with a game in hand, on Tottenham, unless Arsenal win the FA Cup and finish outside of the top four. Giggs, though, is fully focused on raising the performances of the team, and, unintentionally or not, hinted at the problems under Moyes’ short reign.
"It’s going to be my philosophy, it’s going to be Manchester United philosophy’s because I’ve been here my while career,” he said in his first press conference on Friday. “I want players to play with passion, speed, tempo, to be brave, with imagination -- all the things that are expected of a Manchester United player.
“It's been a frustrating season. We win together and lose together and in these remaining four games, I want to bring the positivity back. I want to see goals, tackles, players taking players on and getting the crowd up. I want the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player.”
Bringing the positivity back, in more ways than one, is certainly what is required and is something that, if nothing else, Giggs should be able to accomplish. Large waves of fans remained remarkably supportive of Moyes to the bitter end, but a black cloud has engulfed Old Trafford for much of the season. West Brom, Everton and Newcastle United all ended long barren streaks at the Theatre of Dreams, while the club’s two fiercest rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City, recently made a mockery of the intimidation factor that once saw sides a goal down before even stepping out on the Old Trafford pitch.
That will all be forgotten come Saturday evening when a packed stadium will rapturously get behind Giggs and the team as if a huge weight has just been lifted.
Giggs also brings greater positivity in his words and demeanor. It was conspicuous when, before the Champions League quarterfinal firs leg at home with Bayern Munich, Giggs sat next to Moyes and disputed the idea that Manchester United were underdogs against any team at Old Trafford, even the European champions. It was a bold, rousing statement that came in sharp contrast to Moyes’ utterings ever since taking the job.
It is no disrespect to Everton to say that, while taking the champions down to his former club’s level on the pitch, he also continued to speak as if he was in charge at Goodison Park off it. Suggesting that Liverpool were favorites at Old Trafford or that local foes Manchester City were a side his team aspire to may have been accurate but were only so because of the diminished expectations that he had helped foster.
The constant talk of how a squad that won the title by 11 points needed overhauling certainly had some truth to it. But having lacked the decisiveness in the transfer market when taking over, his comments were only going to have a negative influence on a squad of winners that he had taken over as a manager who had won nothing.
While it is a squad that has most definitely been neglected and left to wilt in recent years, it is not one that should be languishing in their current predicament even with the void left by Ferguson. Much of that has to do with Moyes’ failure to implement a philosophy and a pragmatism that will only see a manager get so far up the coaching ladder.
Giggs’ words, therefore, should be music to the ears of the millions of Manchester United fans across the globe. With attacking talent like Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa, there is plenty of scope to play attractive, proactive football.
There is every reason then to suggest that Norwich City are coming to Old Trafford at the worst possible time. Norwich know all about being shackled by a pragmatic coach for much of the season. While under Chris Hughton, only Crystal Palace scored fewer goals in the Premier League. As much as he was sunk by the failures of the three strikers that he brought in last summer, his uninspiring football hardly encouraged goals from any part of the team.
Clearly a competent manager, as is Moyes, Hughton always just did enough when his job was on the line to earn a reprieve. Yet it is that indecision from the Norwich board that could yet cost them their future in England’s top flight. Youth team boss Neil Adams has taken charge for the rest of the season and in his first two matches in command there were signs of improvement. Back-to-back defeats, though, mean that Norwich are within three points of all three teams in currently in the relegation zone. With matches against Chelsea and Arsenal to come after Saturday, there is reason to be very worried as a Norwich fan. Points certainly appear an unlikely prospect this weekend.
It remains to be seen how good a manger Ryan Giggs is or will become, but the fact that he is markedly not David Moyes will see Norwich City on the unfortunate end of a rousing revival at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Prediction: Manchester United 4-1 Norwich City
Manchester United: Van Persie and Rafael are United’s only absentees, with Patrice Evra set to return from a knee injury.
Norwich City: Joseph Yobo remains sidelined but winger Elliott Bennett is back in contention after missing almost the entire season with a knee injury.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 12.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBC, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.