Giggs Sends Message to Van Gaal that Rebuilding Can Start at Home - The New Indian Express

Giggs Sends Message to Van Gaal that Rebuilding Can Start at Home

Published: 08th May 2014 05:33 PM

Last Updated: 08th May 2014 08:58 PM

There was a moment towards the end of the match between Manchester United and Hull City on Tuesday when time appeared to go into reverse. Reading the opposition's intent perfectly, Ryan Giggs, the first player-manager in United history, intercepted a pass and galloped forward. Like Arnold Palmer's swing or John McEnroe's serve, there is something timeless about the Welshman's running style, something that defies age in his step.

Smooth, elegant, purposeful, he eased forward, still gliding over the turf as he did when Alex Ferguson first saw him as a 15-year-old. And when he slipped the ball past Alex Bruce and swished round the defender as if he were a training-ground plastic cone, it was like 1999 all over again. Never mind the fact that Bruce is the son of Giggs's first captain, in that moment it was the Hull man who looked on the cusp of retirement.

In his body language at the end, in the tone of the short address he delivered to fans after the final whistle, in the very fact that he gave himself 20 minutes of run-out as the last home game of the season drew to a conclusion, came the heavy suggestion that this would be the last time we would see Giggs in action. Although he has yet to make a formal announcement of his retiring, the match on Tuesday looked to be his way of saying goodbye: without fuss, without fanfare, leaving a trail of memories.

And as he went he was making an important statement to the man who is expected to be named as the club's manager next week. As his remarks to the crowd insisted, Giggs (right) was telling Louis van Gaal that the traditions of the club he is about to take on demand that the search for talent always begins within. "This is a club that never stands still, that gives youth a chance," he said.

While it might seem a little odd to suggest that he was making a stand for youth even as he brought himself on - the floodlights bouncing off his growing bald patch, the grey grizzling up his beard - the point was poignantly made. Here was Giggs, the glorious, trophy-accumulating end result of giving young players an opportunity, replacing Tom Lawrence, who was not born when the substitute taking his place picked up his first Premier League winner's medal. That is continuity, that is succession planning, that is the full circular triumph of growing your own.

Giggs claimed after the match that he had chosen a youthful forward line of Lawrence, James Wilson and Adnan Januzaj because he wanted to "freshen things up" after the disappointment of losing at home against Sunderland last Saturday. But there was clearly more to it than that. In selecting the young players who had all progressed through the ranks at Old Trafford - Wilson and Lawrence had been signed at the age of eight - the interim manager was adhering to the fundamental principles of Manchester United: grow your own.

Of course the club have always spent heavily on bringing in the best talent, over the generations breaking the transfer record consistently to recruit the likes of Denis Law, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney. But such investment has always been tempered by a keenness to promote from within. In every first-team squad for every match since 1936 there has been at least one homegrown player in the United line-up. It is an unbroken record that no other top-division club can match. And it is a tradition which, were it to be lost, would diminish the institution substantially. As Giggs was right to point out, there is nothing that excites a football crowd as much as seeing one of their own succeed.

Nowhere was the habit of giving youth an opportunity better rewarded than in the generation of which Giggs - at least until this weekend - remains the sole playing member. Sadly, the Class of 92's managerial control of the club they so distinguished looks set to be short-lived. But the last home game in which Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Philip Neville were in charge was used to make a telling public reminder that the philosophy which gave them a chance was something that must be maintained by the new man.

Indeed, such was the sense of continuity in the performance on Tuesday, after Giggs had taken to the pitch, his place in the technical area was filled by Butt. He was dressed in a tracksuit and for one glorious moment, it looked as if he too were warming up to come on as sub. Sadly it turned out he was merely going through some complicated callisthenics in attempting semaphore instruction.

The good news for Giggs is that if there is any manager likely to adhere to that particular facet of the United way it is Van Gaal. Indeed, when Giggs and his soulmates were making their breakthrough into the first team in 1995, Van Gaal was lifting the Champions League trophy thanks to a side made up of graduates from the Ajax academy. Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert and Kanu had all come through the ranks. At Barcelona, too, Van Gaal gave early opportunity to Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. When the talent is good enough, he has always been prepared to give it a chance.

The scale of the rebuilding job that faces the Dutchman this summer has been evident all season. But if Giggs is right about Lawrence, Wilson and Januzaj, if the new man trusts in the instincts that have served the club for so long, when he arrives from steering Holland through the World Cup, Van Gaal will find the answer to his immediate problems staring him in the face.

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