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Surprise, surprise: Neville backs Giggs

As Gary Neville calls for United to respect their tradition of appointing British managers, we take a close look at his reasoning.

Jan Kruger

Gary Neville, former Manchester United right-back and current pundit-for-hire, has been talking to Sky Sports about the vacant managerial position. You'll be shocked and stunned to hear that he thinks Ryan Giggs, his long-term friend, colleague and business partner, should get the gig. And while this notion obviously appeals to the romantic in every United fan, Neville is building his reputation on clear-sighted, rational analysis. So let's have a look at his reasoning ...

He started well on Saturday

Yes, he did. Against Norwich, who are dreadful. With a collection of players who, having struggled through a difficult season, are the closest thing to demob happy that the Premier League will allow. In front of a crowd who, having struggled through a season, were delighted just to see some accurate passing. In a game that, thanks to the season of struggle, was more-or-less meaningless from a United point of view. And, lest we forget, against Norwich. Who are dreadful.

so let him have two or three more games

He's getting those anyway.

to see whether he settles into the position and whether he can bed in and be given that role.

Right. Let's say, for the sake of argument and since this is clearly what Neville hopes will happen, that the rest of the season goes well. Sunderland and Hull City at home, Southampton away; let's say three wins. Or two wins and a draw. Should that be the case, then we can draw certain conclusions. We can, for example, conclude that Ryan Giggs is a very good interim manager, and should United find themselves in need of such again, he's an ideal candidate.

However, given that United's new manager is going to need to be able to not just beat Norwich 4-0 but also to be able to identify transfer targets, integrate new signings, oversee youth development, promote young players, assert his authority over whichever of the senior players stay, cleanly dispense with those that he wants to leave, persuade any unsettled but necessary players to resettle, deliver attacking and effective football, cope with an assertive yet curiously callow boardroom, oversee the hiring and firing of coaching staff, of medical staff, of scouting staff ... the list is long, very long, and little of it will be addressed in the course of four games at the end of an already-dead season. However well they go.

I don't think there's any certainty wherever you go.

Correct. However, it's perhaps not fair to treat these two uncertainties as being of the same degree. Ryan Giggs, despite his 100% win record, is as close to an uncertainty as could reasonably be conceived; all the other candidates, to a greater or lesser extent, come with something on their managerial CV. Some come with an awful lot.

There's the idea that Ryan hasn't got experience but he knows the club

There's the "fact". At this point we should talk about what it means to know the club. Giggs undoubtedly does: he knows its character, he knows its people, he knows where the stationery is kept. However, knowing the club isn't vital; all that matters is getting the club. Ferguson didn't know the club when he joined as manager; Cantona didn't when he joined as player. Both were able to cope, because both got United immediately.

and there's the idea that Van Gaal has massive experience, but doesn't know the Premier League.

Also a "fact". A fact that, while the world was a very different place and the Premier League was still Division One, applied to Alex Ferguson back in the day. And again, we return to the difference between knowing and getting, and that the latter is vital while the former is not. Jose Mourinho didn't know the league when he joined Chelsea, and nor did Carlo Ancelotti. Both won it in their first season. Manuel Pellegrini might be about to do the same. Arsene Wenger didn't know the league when he joined Arsenal, and he won the double in his second season. David Moyes, on the other hand, knew the Premier League exceptionally well.

At the end of the day the owners will do what they want to do. I suppose in some ways they want an experienced hand

Can't imagine why.

but I personally would like to see a British manager be appointed because Manchester United have always appointed British managers.

United have appointed eleven managers since the Second World War, which is when the job becomes something we might recognise. Two of those were Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson, among the finest in the history of the game. Two of them, Giggs and Jimmy Murphy, were interim appointments, which is obviously something that the Welsh are well suited to. The other seven — Wilf McGuinness, Busby again, Frank O'Farrell, Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton, Ron Atkinson, and David Moyes — amount at best to a mixed advertisement for British and Irish coaching.

It's a funny one, this. On the one hand, the notion that a national (and indeed local) identity should be maintained within institutions that purport to represent a country, or a part of that country, still has resonance. On the other hand, it does feel a bit EGG AND CHIPS EGG AND CHIPS EGG AND CHIPS. Would this policy exclude Solskjaer, if he sorts things out? Or, in another, better, funnier world, Cantona?

And on the third hand, given the context, it's hard not to think that this basically amounts to: let's appoint somebody British. Oh, look, there are no British managers with anything like the pedigree to take over at Manchester United, we'll just have to hope the nearest British person to the dugout turns out to be good enough. Oh, look who it happens to be.

We'll wait and see.There's no hard and fast rule in appointing managers nowadays. You see some managers go in who have little experience

Not no experience ...

Diego Simeone

Who is currently with his sixth club in his third country.

Pep Guardiola

Who had spent a year coaching Barcelona B, and who was also, lest we forget, a massive punt on the part of the Barcelona board.

or Kenny Dalglish all those years ago.

This is the most interesting comparison, certainly the most valid, and perhaps merits a full feature of its own. For now, let's simply note that Dalglish took over a Liverpool side that had been operating on the basis of a smooth transfer of power, through the bootroom, for many years. Whereas whoever comes in to United now will taking over something that looks, to be honest, like a bit of a mess.

Then there's the idea of managers who have one or two good seasons like José Mourinho. It worked for Chelsea and then André Villas-Boas didn't.

"... I would like to see a Portuguese manager appointed because Chelsea have always appointed Portuguese managers ..."

You've seen different examples of how sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work. There is no hard and fast rule and until you appoint someone you haven't got a clue whether it's going to work or not.

Yep. But you can assess the size of the chance you're taking.

From that point of view, people say Ryan's got no experience but then is Van Gaal going to work?

We don't know.

We don't know.


It's a call for people at the club.

Please give Ryan the job. He's nice.