Veteran's appointment as player-coach could be his first step towards succeeding David Moyes in Old Trafford hot seat
Is anyone really surprised that Ryan Giggs has just been appointed a player/coach at Manchester United? Or that Phil Neville is likely to rejoin his old club and old manager sometime soon?
Truly Sir Alex Ferguson's legacy to United is the gift that keeps on giving. Apart from the phenomenal length of his service Giggs has been a one-club man, and now he is moving into position to stay at the same club for the rest of his career, which in a coaching capacity could easily last another couple of decades.
It is even possible to say at this early stage that Giggs is being groomed as a future United manager, an eventual successor to David Moyes, which is almost certainly what Ferguson would have wished. The exact timescale might be hazy, it all depends on how successful United are under Moyes and how forcefully the new man stamps his personality on the club, but the blueprint is fairly clear.
Not content with knocking Liverpool off their perch in terms of titles, United will now thank them for the idea and attempt to replicate the boot-room philosophy of promotion from within that was so successful at Anfield for such a long time.
And why not? When you have established such a nucleus of experience and knowhow en route to unparalleled success, why break up the band? Why would United want Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and perhaps Neville to pass their knowledge on to Premier League rivals? If those ex-players (not that Giggs is in that category just yet) are still coaching at the club in five or 10 years time, United will have no need to look elsewhere for their next manager.
One wonders, in fact, what Moyes privately thinks about this situation, since it appears Ferguson has laid foundations that might outlast his tenure. The Scot has brought his team of trusted assistants across from Goodison, as everyone expected him to do, but with Giggs joining Scholes and Butt on the coaching staff there appears a slight danger of having more chiefs than Indians running around at Carrington.
"I am delighted that Ryan has accepted the chance to become player coach," Moyes said. He could hardly have been surprised, but he didn't mention that. "His career is an example to any aspiring young player and I am sure that both he and the players will benefit from his new role."
That much is true, and when Giggs is spoken of in those terms it puts one in mind of Pep Guardiola, who is now the most sought-after coach in Europe but a mere six years ago was taking his first steps in management with Barcelona B.
Guardiola was 36 years old at the time, Giggs is 39 now. There was never much chance of Guardiola failing, because to players such as Xavi Hernández, Cesc Fàbregas and Andrés Iniesta he was and still is an all-time hero. Giggs is in precisely that position at Old Trafford now, and though it might be a while before he gets a team of his own to run, at some point or other he will be in line for consideration for the main job.
Whether that makes Moyes' task easier or more difficult is an interesting question. On the one hand, who could say no to working alongside such a popular and experienced player? On the other hand, Giggs represents Ferguson and the past, and Moyes needs to be his own man and to make a fresh start.
Moyes is already under considerable pressure – everyone knows that following Ferguson is not going to be easy and he will be under public scrutiny as never before – and the fact that Fergie's fledglings are still cluttering the nest is going to test his diplomatic skills too. Perhaps cluttering is not quite the term, not yet anyway, since it suggests there are too many nestlings for comfort. At the moment United are one big happy family, all in self-congratulatory mode. But the games haven't started yet.
Results, as ever, will soon show the worth of United's new set-up.