When Gary Neville was first breaking into the Manchester United side as part of the famous ‘Fergie Fledglings’, Ryan Giggs would likely have been the one who he was immediately looking at and learning from – a player only two years older who had already made it into the first team and was setting the Premier League alight.
Now, over two decades later, the roles have been reversed.
If Giggs is to fulfil his managerial potential he needs to quickly learn from the example currently being set by Neville at Valencia. Like his old teammate, he needs to progress from an assistant into full first-team management as soon as the right opportunity presents itself.
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The temporary appointment of Neville at the Mestalla surprised many. Yet it showed how Neville, who continues to act as Roy Hodgson’s assistant with England, had acknowledged that to develop as a coach he needed to move out of his comfort zone and gain invaluable experience as a club’s number one.
With no previous experience as a manager, the man with over 600 appearances for Manchester United and 85 England caps has taken on an enormous challenge. A maiden managerial job at one of La Liga's leading clubs, in a country where he doesn’t speak the local language and with a team already under-performing and under pressure, Neville didn’t bat an eyelid when a chance opened up and neither should Giggs; be it domestically or abroad.
With the uncertainty surrounding Louis van Gaal’s future not going away, should Giggs wait to see if he is immediately in line to replace him?
Should he show greater patience and hold on to see if he is to be offered the job if the Dutchman steps down at the end of his contract next year?
Or, should the Welshman take the plunge at the end of this season and do the unthinkable for United fans by finding his first job as a manager away from the Theatre of Dreams?
The more he is seen sat glumly watching on as Van Gaal’s turgid side play a style of football that is the complete antithesis to the way he was taught the game under Sir Alex Ferguson, the more it seems that the best decision would be the latter.
He is highly regarded at Old Trafford but how long can Giggs wait in the shadows before it starts being to the detriment of his managerial prospects?
He currently resembles an entirely different figure to the one who strode purposefully down the touchline before his first match as temporary manager following David Moyes’s sacking over two years ago. He has done his apprenticeship – it is time for him to start considering taking on the real thing. Just like Neville has done. Many clubs would take him – indeed, he was one of the men being touted as the next Swansea City boss.
The Manchester United legend has done the right thing by trying to absorb as much as he can from Van Gaal. However, to take the next crucial steps in his career as a manager, Giggs needs to be doing more. Taking a leaf from Neville’s book would not be a bad place to start.