Ryan Giggs immediately distanced himself from David Moyes’ approach and aimed a veiled swipe at the Scot’s failed regime when he was introduced as Manchester United’s interim manager on Friday.
The former player-coach, who insisted taking charge of his first game would be the proudest moment of his illustrious career, insisted he trusts the players Moyes was so critical of and will get them back playing the “attacking, passionate United way”.
Giggs said: “We’ve got great players who are winners. [I’ve told them] I trust you, I know what you’re capable of. Give the fans something to shout about – score goals, make tackles. That’s what they’ve done in training.
“It’s going to be my philosophy, United’s philosophy. I want the players to play with passion, speed, tempo, imagination – all the things I expect of a United player. Most of all, enjoy it.”
Moyes pointedly failed to thank the United players in the only statement he has made since getting sacked last Tuesday. In fact, the only mention he made of them came in reference to his commitment to the “fundamental rebuilding” of the squad while he was at Old Trafford.
His regime was said to have been characterised by negativity, with too much emphasis on countering other teams’ strengths rather than accentuating United’s. His team have certainly played without their customary verve this season and reports said training was similarly constrained, with the emphasis on fitness rather than skill.
All of which Giggs seemed to be at pains to make clear he would change. “Just enjoy yourself and express yourself,” he said was his message to the players. “I just felt the best way to do that was to make training as enjoyable as you can, go out and play and we have done that.
“It’s probably the proudest moment of my career and one I’m going to enjoy for the last two and a half weeks of the season. I want to bring smiles back to the faces of the fans.”
Giggs, who earlier this season had to deny rumours of a rift with Moyes, thanked the former United manager for giving his first chance in coaching. He was appointed a player-coach by Moyes but reports suggested he had little influence during the manager’s short reign.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Giggs’ manager for 22 years, was the first person he turned to after taking charge of the side this week as he sought advice on how to approach the final four games of the season.
Giggs said: “I played under Sir Alex for so long. He was the first person to call and I wanted advice and who better to ring? Why wouldn’t I?”
He will take charge of his first game on Saturday against Norwich and the 40-year-old, a boyhood United fan, said he can’t wait for the opportunity to add the experience to those from the 962 games he has played for the club.
“It’s been the biggest part of my life since I was 13, 14 – since I signed schoolboy forms,” Giggs, who has not ruled out a playing part in the game, said. “I am proud, I am happy, a little bit nervous and just like playing, I can’t wait for the game on Saturday.
“Ed [Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman] asked me to look after the team for the remaining four games, I had no hesitation in saying yes to. I was shocked [by the Moyes sacking]. It’s been a crazy week.”
Giggs has been told he is only holding the fort at United, rather than auditioning to take over the job permanently, but a revival could put doubts into the minds of the club’s board.
“I am just concentrating on the four games remaining,” Giggs said. “After that I have not thought about it.” However, his assistant, Nicky Butt suggested the stand-in management team have not given up of the idea of staying in charge.
“We’re here to try to help the club and get the results that we want from now until the end of the season,” Butt said. “What happens after that, who knows?”
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal is the favourite to succeed Moyes and will be a free agent after this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, but Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone – at Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid respectively – have also been tipped to get the job.
In the meantime, Giggs has brought in his former team-mate Paul Scholes to join his coaching staff along with Butt and Phil Neville to make it four members of the Class of 92 at the helm.
Giggs said: “Phil was already involved. Nicky was with the reserves, I asked him to come and help with the first team, which he was more than happy to do. The phone call was to Scholesy because I know how much the club feels to these people. It means as much to them as me. They will give everything in a short time to try and end what has been a frustrating season on a high.”