It has been a funny few years since Ryan Giggs announced his retirement, but he has finally landed his first managerial position. After failed attempts to be in the Old Trafford hot seat ahead of Jose Mourinho and being turned down for other Premier League jobs, he has now been trusted with taking the Wales national team forward following Chris Coleman’s return to club management. Let’s hope he makes a success of it, but it is not inconceivable that he is making a catastrophic mistake that could end his managerial career before it has even begun.
Giggs has come across quite bitter at United’s decision to overlook him in favour of Mourinho following Louis Van Gaal’s departure from the club in 2016, but for the club it was definitely the right decision. The FA Cup success apart, that season was another disastrous one for getting the club back to the top and Giggs had a huge part to play, or at least he should have. He was LvG’s number 2 and for someone who claims to know the “United way” he seemingly allowed the Dutchman to continue playing a dire brand of football that was polar opposite of the “United way”. The club also needed a name that would lure players of the highest quality, which Giggs, as good a player as he was, simply would not be able to do. He has a huge respect in the game as a player, but unfortunately that does not always follow through to management. Ed Woodward will look to the signings of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the pending Alexis Sanchez (hopefully) as justification of his decision, even if the football maybe still way short of the United faithful’s expectations.
In truth, Giggs probably avoided a bullet when being refused the United job, it was and still is a huge job. In time he could be the perfect candidate with his experience of the club but right now, you’d expect he is way short of the experience required. The likeliest outcome had he got the job, would have been failure and his managerial career in tatters, however, he may be about to fall into a similar trap by taking the Wales job. Coleman did a great job getting the national side to the Euros 2 summers ago, let alone to the semi final, but they then showed what a poor outfit they are when failing to qualify from their World Cup group ahead of Republic of Ireland, who then proved how bad they are when being destroyed by Christian Eriksen and Denmark during the playoffs in November. Certainly Gareth Bale and possibly Aaron Ramsey apart, the rest of the Wales squad is one of low level Premier League players or at best Championship quality.
As shown in France, if Bale is fit then they have half a chance in games as he can produce one moment of magic but his injury record over the past 2 years has been as bad as anyone’s, meaning Real Madrid will be doing all they can to limit his time with the national side. Without him, Wales have no real goalscorers and really lack in the striker department and creativity in midfield. They also rely heavily on keeping clean sheets and have at times done just that, but their back line is either ageing or of poor quality. Ashley Williams has been immense for them, but at 33 he will be getting to the stage where he may well retire from international football to extend his club career and he has been pretty poor since the start of this season.
Elsewhere, James Chester is playing for Aston Villa in the Championship and Chris Gunter, winner of the Wales player of the year, is in a Championship relegation battle with Reading. The only shining light in the back line is Ben Davies but he wouldn’t normally be first choice at Spurs if Danny Rose was fit and not pushing for a move away. In midfield, Ramsey is a good player when fit and that is about it. Joe Allen, apart from the unbelievable form he showed for periods last season, is an average Premier League midfielder, currently battling to avoid joining the list of Championship Welsh players, with Stoke. Andy King can not get a game for Leicester and Joe Ledley is back in the Championship with Derby. Up top they are limited to Sam Vokes who does what he can but won’t score the goals for qualification and Hal Robson-Kanu who is still living off ‘that goal’ he scored against Belgium, is in reality, not very good. The shining light for Giggs may be the youth coming through, specifically Ben Woodburn and Ethan Ampadu, currently earning a living at Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. But the chances of them getting experience at club level are very slim in the current Premier League environment.
Wales’ ranking of recent years has been massively kind to them, reaching a high of 8th following their Euro success, but in reality, the rankings should be taken with pinch of salt. Many times before England have sat in the top 10 but in reality have not been a top 10 international side for years, much like Wales. Coleman managed to get results out of a group of average players, centred around the world class ability of one man. Time after time in qualifying for Euro 2016, Bale would be the man to score the goals to win the game and bravely backed up by those around him. In the tournament, they were very much riding a crest of a wave, building momentum from winning the group, mainly down to England’s incompetence, and then taking that through to the semi finals. Credit to them, they showed what is possible when playing as a team in a very similar way to how Leicester took themselves to the Premier League title a few months earlier. However, that momentum has been lost somewhat by failing to qualify for even the playoffs of the World Cup in Russia and since then, Coleman has decided that managing Sunderland is a better choice than staying on, that pretty much tells you all you need to know. The job ahead of Giggs is huge and following the success in 2016, the nation will be expecting them to qualify for the 2020 tournament, but unless he can get Bale fit, you fear he is right up against it already.
The talk from Giggs over the past 2 years is that he has turned down opportunities in the Championship or lower because he is suited to the Premier League as he knows it better. That may well be true, but the fine line between success and failure to clubs these days, means a risk on a complete novice manager is too much to take. Instead, the Welshman should have lowered his expectations and worked his way up just like every other manager has had to do. I am not sure why he thinks he as the right to manage at the highest level from day 1, but he does and look where it has got him. He needed to gain experience and by taking the Wales job he will get that, however international football is a world away from club football and unless he does something unbelievable with Wales over the next 3-4 years, I don’ see his stock rising very highly, in fact it may well plummet to an irretrievable level. Giggs will not have the ability of buying players to improve his squad, he will not have the daily opportunity to work with his players in training and he will even struggle to see most of his squad play as they struggle to make the starting lineup at their clubs. This is a job a world away from what he wanted, so why is he taking it over other opportunities at club level in the lower leagues?
Only Giggs can answer that and maybe he will when he takes up the post and unveiled in the press conference. This is by no way a chance for me to put him down nor Wales, I really hope he makes a success of it and we see him at the highest level for years to come, he is a United legend and always will be. I also wish Wales all the best and hope the Euro 2016 success was not a one off, however everyone needs a reality check every now and then. I have full respect for him taking the job and I realise that everyone has to start somewhere, but if he is serious about taking club jobs at the highest level, I fear this is not the smartest move and maybe more desperation. The world of managing is not a nice place to be and Giggs is putting himself right in the firing line from day one, so let’s hope he is able to take the job on with the same success he took on full backs for all those years playing for United.