Ryan Giggs will take charge of his fourth and final game in charge of Manchester United as interim manager when travelling to Southampton on the final day of the Premier League season. But it remains to be seen whether it will be his last chance to take the field as a player.
There has yet to be an announcement on the identity of David Moyes’ successor, although it is now believed that mere formalities are holding up the unveiling of Luis van Gaal as boss, which is expected to happen in the next week or two. Giggs claims his own future remains far less certain.
"I have not decided [on what to do next],” he said, according to ESPN. “I am too busy trying to prepare a team for Southampton and that is my priority at the moment. When the season ends I will go away and think about what I want to do. It has been a difficult season for us and when the management situation gets sorted out then we can move on."
There is very much a sense, though, that Manchester United’s most decorated player of all time is preparing for the next chapter of his life. For the first time in his spell as interim manager he named himself in the squad for the club’s final home game of the season against Hull City in midweek and then came on to a rapturous reception with 20 minutes remaining. During the week the 40-year-old also received tributes from the likes of former teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham as he was given the club’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The Welshman certainly believes that whatever happens next, this temporary spell at the helm has stood him in good stead for his future endeavors.
"Your coaching badges prepare you as best they can, but it's not until you do it that you know if you are going to like it or not,” he explained.
"There've been times where I've thought this is a headache, but there have been times where it is rewarding, like the good results we've had or the good training sessions you've put on and the lads have really reacted well to it.”
While there is emotion at the possible end of an era, it can’t disguise what has been a wretched season for a club now in their final hours as champions. The only thing that can now be salvaged from the campaign is a Europa League place. It means that the visit to St Mary’s holds importance beyond the sentiment, with a win for United coupled with a defeat for Tottenham at home to Aston Villa allowing the Manchester club a route into Europe.
But Southampton are unlikely to be pushovers. The South coast side go into the final day just a place behind United in the table after what has been a fine season that has long been destined to see them finish in mid-table. For their second season back in the top flight, it is a worthy achievement. And, unlike their fellow mid-table residents Newcastle United, Southampton have managed to maintain their form despite having little for which to play. Indeed, they come into their final match on the back of wins over Everton and Swansea. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is eager for his team to continue that run and give their fans a final cheer.
“I’m very happy and I’m very proud of these players for what they’ve done this season because they’ve pretty much given 100 per cent throughout the entire season,” he told Southampton’s official website.
“It has been a very tough season but regardless of that I want to congratulate them all and the staff as well as the supporters, because they too have been brilliant.
“This is a good chance now in the game against Manchester United on Sunday to recognize that that the fans have been with us and giving us amazing support throughout the season, so this is a chance to congratulate them again.”
While the match could well represent the end of an era for Manchester United, the Southampton fans will be hoping that it does not prove likewise for their side. Their prodigious left-back Luke Shaw is one of several players linked with moves away, with the 18-year-old widely believed to be one of United’s main targets to headline their attempts to return to the top next season.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by SyFy, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.