Ryan: So, José Mourinho is in, and "The Special One" is likely to assemble his own backroom staff of trusted confidants. It seems as though Rui Faria, the feisty, bench-dwelling wind-up merchant, will be made assistant manager.
But where does this leave Ryan Giggs and his ambition of someday managing the club? The Welsh legend has been at United pretty much his entire life and, most recently, he has been Louis van Gaal's assistant manager. With that role likely to be offered to Faria, what's next for Giggs?
There have been conflicting reports in the media about what exactly has been offered to Giggs. Some reports say no discussions have yet taken place, but the general consensus is that the former winger has been offered a "reduced role" within the coaching set-up, possibly taking charge of the under-21 side. If that is the case, should he accept that offer?
Jack: It's clearly a very difficult question to answer, as it's essentially trying to second-guess a notoriously unpredictable United hierarchy. Assuming, as we all do, that Giggs' ultimate ambition is to become United manager, it's all about trying to plot the most navigable route to that job. It's not out of the realms of possibility that United could opt to promote from within, and there are plenty of notable examples of that happening -- among the most notable being Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.
I would actually think that becoming manager of the reserves would be a preferable option to becoming a nondescript member of Mourinho's backroom staff. Zidane spent a couple of years in charge of Real Madrid's Castilla squad before being given the big gig, and Guardiola had a run in charge of Barça B. Presumably with full control, even of a reserve team, a coach can learn how to effectively manage game situations, and instil their footballing philosophy without having to adhere to the will of a boss -- or at least, not in the same degree.
So actually, I think becoming a reserve team manager would be more preferable than becoming just another first-team face, though of course, not necessarily preferable to leaving and taking charge somewhere else.
Ryan: You have to feel for Giggs to some extent. Essentially, whether or not he would seriously be considered as a successor to Mourinho, depends entirely on the lay of the land come the time the Portuguese departs, which is impossible to predict.
If all had gone to plan following van Gaal's appointment, the Dutchman would have brought stability back to the club and, after three years, handed over to Giggs. But that didn't happen, and two years in, with drab performances on the pitch and no Champions League football, a change was needed. It was deemed too much of a risk to appoint a rookie manager, so Giggs' perceived destiny was put on hold.
The story may well be different by the time Mourinho moves on. He may well have the ship righted and sailing smoothly, enabling an uncomplicated transition to Giggs, but the opposite could just as easily be true.
I agree that, having spent a year learning at the feet of van Gaal, a switch to becoming under-21 coach would be a much better option than regressing to a lesser coaching role, but that still wouldn't come close to replicating the rigours of managing one of the biggest clubs in the world. Guardiola and Zidane are the exception, rather than the rule. for every Guardiola, there are a thousand Pippo Inzaghis and Cristian Brocchis (both of whom struggled when making the step up from youth coach to first-team boss at AC Milan).
With the reputation and name-value Giggs has within the game, he would likely be considered for a managerial role at a more high-profile club than most ex-pros taking their first step into management. If he could secure a job at a lower-end Premier League side, or a promotion chasing Championship club, do you think that would be a better route to gaining relevant experience?
Jack: Theoretically yes, as then he'd have a grounding in the other aspects of management -- perhaps most importantly, in player recruitment -- that he wouldn't get in charge of a reserve team. But there's no doubt that it's an extraordinarily risky venture, and I think that if this is ultimately the decision Giggs makes, he will look back upon it as a defining one. There is so much in football that the manager cannot control, and it's in spite of this fact that managers bear the responsibility for the final result.
But it is precisely because of this that Giggs, if he opts to leave United, must make sure he's landing comfortably. If it requires patience, then he should be patient, but he must ensure that the club he's taking over is already set for success. It would seemingly be ill-advised to take over a hypothetical relegation struggler whose average age is over 30 -- that would be a job that could overwhelm even the most experienced of coaches.
He should perhaps also entertain the possibility of going abroad; the coaching career of incumbent Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa has been a particularly interesting one. Having failed in a few jobs in the Championship, he rebuilt his reputation after learning the ropes and winning silverware in Hungary, Israel and Switzerland (where he managed Basel with some success in the Champions League), and over the past season has been linked with big moves to Juventus and Zenit St. Petersburg. Sousa certainly had a more impressive CV when applying for the Fiorentina job than he would have had with a few lower mid-table Premier League finishes.
But perhaps more than anything else, this shows that there is no one-size fits all road to managerial stardom. It seems the size of the club is not as important as its readiness for a new manager to come in and build on the work of his predecessor. If he's offered a position with a young, talented team that can be improved without too much work, then leaving United would probably be the best option for Giggs.
Ryan: I think you've hit upon the crux of the matter there: stepping away from United would be a huge and daunting move for Giggs, so he must be sure that his next job is the right one.
Both Gary Neville and David Moyes were roundly praised for having the courage to try their hand at managing abroad but, with hind-sight, neither appeared to have done their due dilligence when scouting their destinations. Neville saw a major European club with a talented squad, but underestimated the external factors which make sustained success close to impossible at Valencia. And Moyes, much like his time at United, tried to implement a philosophy and style that was completely at odds with what is expected at Real Sociedad.
I think staying is the easier option for Giggs -- as much as it may feel like a kick in the teeth to no longer be assistant manager -- but, with careful selection of his next move, leaving could prove an astute decision.
Staying would represent a kind of happy medium; no success would be too great, and no failure would be too damning. Whereas joining a new club, at home or abroad, could be make or break.
In an era in which "The Cult of the Manager" has brought greater attention on every tactical decision that is made, we are sometimes guilty of believeing a great coach will succeed no matter what the circumstances. Just because Joe Bloggs can take Blythe Spartans to the Champions League final on Football Manager -- without ever leaving the safe-haven of his bedroom -- we assume that Guardiola-esque trophy hauls should become standard practice.
But in truth, there are so many external factors which, as you mention, are far beyond any manager's control. This means that, no matter who the manager, failure is always a very real possibility. Giggs is facing a very distinct fork in the road here, and there is heavy fog in each direction.
Jack: Yep, absolutely. I think the situation can be summed up with the simple proposition that by leaving United Giggs will run a higher risk, but one with a potential for greater reward.