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Giggs and company bring smiles to Manchester United after season of sulks

It could all be short-lived. A new manager could come in and bring his own men. But for now, planet Manchester United with Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville have brightened hearts at Old Trafford, writes Andy Mitten.

Manchester United's Ryan Giggs held his first news conference as the club's interim manager on Friday, April 25, 2014. Giggs, who has spent his whole career at Old Trafford, will be responsible for the first team until a permanent appointment can be made, United say. EPA/TAL COHEN
Manchester United's Ryan Giggs held his first news conference as the club's interim manager on Friday, April 25, 2014. Giggs, who has spent his whole career at Old Trafford, will be responsible for the first team until a permanent appointment can be made, United say. EPA/TAL COHEN

The phrase “Class of ‘92” irks some of its members, but five of them spent Thursday evening in a restaurant part-owned by Ryan Giggs.

Manchester United’s interim manager and his former teammates Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville were in Worsley, a wealthy Salford suburb 10 kilometres west of Manchester City centre, which Giggs has long called home.

The group have bought non-league football club Salford City and held a dinner with local partners. A beaming Giggs joked that he had had “such a relaxing week, nothing untoward at all”. Scholes said that being an analyst on television during the Manchester derby, where he gave a critical but accurate analysis of David Moyes’s United team, was something that he had to do.

At another Manchester dinner on Thursday, Sir Alex Ferguson described Giggs as “the one man we could have gone to” after the dismissal of Moyes.

“He’s got 20-odd years of experience at Manchester United,” Ferguson said. “He knows exactly what’s needed to be a Manchester United player and I was so pleased they brought Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt back in. Two great professionals who understand the club and are hard workers.

“One of the things we were criticised for over the years was succession planning. It’s a difficult industry to have succession planning but in the case of what we were doing over the past few years was bringing Nicky Butt into the fold with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

“Gary Neville was offered a position but he decided to go into television. He’s looking to come back. The model for that is Bayern Munich. It wasn’t really until David Gill that we started doing that and that’s what you see today.”

Ferguson also said of Scholes: “Paul is succinct, accurate and to the point. He’s brilliant at it. One or two times I brought in the older guys to get their opinion. ‘Scholesy’ was three or four words, bang, bang, bang and that was it.

“The first thing Ryan did was ring up Scholesy. He was on holiday and he got straight back.”

Smiles have abounded at United’s training ground since Moyes’s departure on Tuesday. Giggs, Butt, Phil Neville and Scholes have coached the team all week. They boast 2,453 United first-team appearances among them.

Giggs on Friday spoke to the media for the first time and, after thanking Moyes for giving him his first opportunity in coaching, admitted that being asked to be the manager of Manchester United was “the proudest moment of my life”.

“I’ve supported Manchester United all my life. It’s been the biggest part of my life since I was 13, 14, since I signed schoolboy forms and ever since then it’s been the biggest part of my life,” he said. “I can’t wait for the game Saturday.”

United play relegation-threatened Norwich City on Saturday and Giggs gave positive messages about how he wanted to help put a smile back on the faces of United fans.

Asked what he had told his players, he said: “That I trust you. That I know what you’re capable of, go out there and show it on Saturday, and give the fans something to shout about, entertain them, score goals, make tackles, play with speed, play with tempo, and that’s what they’ve done in training so they will take that out into the game on Saturday.”

The Welsh-born winger admitted that he was a little nervous to be United manager, but joked that one of his first steps in the job was to award himself a five-year contract. He also described how other players had put a “gaffer” sign above his place in the dressing room and how they had asked him if he were changing his parking spot to the manager’s one.

Giggs is hugely respected in the dressing room and United fans are awash with spring optimism. They like their former and current heroes being in charge and the appointment, however brief, has lifted the mood after a dreadful season where the team slipped from champions to seventh.

It could all be short-lived. A new manager could come in and bring his own men. But for now, planet Manchester United is all smiles after a season of sulks.

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