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Louis Van Gaal’s first mistake

Manchester United announced on Monday that Louis Van Gaal has signed a three-year contract at Old Trafford. United’s fans, usually so loud and obnoxious at this time of year, have been relatively silent the last few weeks of the season. But Van Gaal’s appointment has drawn them out and the reaction on social media has been very positive, with the vast majority labeling it “a new era” and “a dream appointment”.  While Van Gaal’s credentials certainly make him an ideal candidate to turn the club’s fortunes around, it was the other announcement the club made on Monday that is very much open for debate.

The second announced made on Monday was that Ryan Giggs would stay on as Van Gaal’s assistant. This piece of news was quickly followed by Giggs’ confirming that he would be retiring as a player to concentrate fully on this new role. Giggs has not been shy in declaring his ambition to someday manage United and the idea behind his role seems to suggest Van Gaal will groom him for that eventuality. United’s fans and the media seem to think this is a great idea. Giggs has fantastic credentials as a player – with 936 appearances and 13 Premier League titles – but this writer has his reservations about Giggs’ ability to perform in his new role.

These reservations stem from last season’s woes. Many felt that Sir Alex Ferguson’s presence at United was a hindrance to David Moyes, a shadow looming over him during games. For me, Giggs and the whole Class of 92 are an extension of this hindrance. Giggs, along with the other members of the ’92 that were brought back during his time as an interim boss, have the potential to undermine what Van Gaal will be trying to achieve.

Let’s not forget that when Giggs took charge for the last three games, he talked about going back to playing the “United way”. If I break this down, it means he felt he should manage the club exactly as former boss Alex Ferguson did. That is where David Moyes went wrong. He simply wasn’t Alex Ferguson, didn’t want his side to play like Alex Ferguson and he lost the dressing room as a result. Did Giggs contribute to Moyes’ downfall? One can only speculate. But what happens when Van Gaal wants his team to play the Van Gaal way?

Van Gaal himself seems content with Ryan Giggs becoming his assistant. He has said that he is confident the presence of such a key figure in the club’s history will have no negative impact on this ability to manage the club. I don’t agree with John Giles that often but he recently said:

“It doesn’t matter what Ferguson did. It doesn’t matter what Giggs did for the club. You’ve got to think what’s best for the club now….”.

I couldn’t agree with that statement more. I think the first step of Van Gaal’s tenure should have been retiring Giggs and giving him a post in the Academy or somewhere tucked away from having too much influence. He shied away from doing that but for any hope of “a new era” Van Gaal must dismantle the squad and the remnants of Ferguson’s old guard.  This should begin by removing Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt. Ryan Giggs brought in his friends as part of his coaching staff but they should have no place in Van Gaal’s new set up.  I still don’t quite understand why Phil Neville didn’t leave when Moyes was sacked in the first place. The next step for Van Gaal should be bringing in new players that are loyal to him and removing deadwood like Ferdinand and Evra.

Time will tell and for all we know Van Gaal and Ryan Giggs could really be the dream team United’s fans seem to believe they will be. But maybe Van Gaal has made his first mistake before he has even taken charge by appointing the club legend and leaving a foot in the past.

Donal Lucey, Pundit Arena.

 

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