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Ryan Giggs and the perils of great players transitioning into management

Since his spell in the dugout alongside Louis van Gaal in the Manchester United coaching set-up, Ryan Giggs has been touted for a big job. But two years on from his departure, that’s not materialised.

Whether or not it’s true that the United legend interviewed inadequately for the Swansea City managerial role a year ago, it’s certainly true that the Welsh legend hasn’t managed to find a role at a level he deems acceptable just yet. With the Wales job now open and the managerial merry-go-round kicking into gear once more, the speculation might return.

Giggs’ coaching career has almost been tarnished already. From taking over as a player-coach from David Moyes for the final games of the season in 2014, the former winger has been implicated in the decline of the Premier League’s most successful side. His playing career saw him win 13 Premier League titles. Since his move into coaching, he hasn’t even come close.

That’s not his fault, of course. The squad that Alex Ferguson left was ageing and in need of renovation. David Moyes’ disaster left the club in a bad state and Giggs had nothing to do with that. And under Louis van Gaal, the style of play may have been frustrating for United fans, but it’s the Dutchman’s philosophy to blame, not Giggs’.

Despite that, the failings of United until Mourinho’s arrival may still dull excitement around the Welshman. Now off to Vietnam to become the director of a youth academy, a managerial job in Britain seems a long way off. But despite the fact his stock has gone down, you get the feeling that a midtable or lower league club may not be the right fit for Giggs anyway.

It’s a well-known phenomenon that the best players don’t usually make the best coaches. The greatest players have an obvious problem to face: they’re usually managing players who aren’t as good as they were. Asking too much of your players is a sure-fire way to become frustrated and disappointed. It must be demoralising for the players, too.

There are exceptions, of course. But in a way, they still fit the narrative.

Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola would be the names who jump out the most. Both men won the Champions League once as players and have won two so far as managers. Both were considered among the best in the world in their positions as players, and now they’re accomplished managers, too.

And yet, neither have coached outside some of the biggest clubs in the world. Far from being a blot on their copybooks, however, it’s a positive: it makes sense that some of the best players in history would be able to translate that success into management, but when the players are also some of the best in the world, it makes things much easier.

So, when it comes to coaching players at top clubs, that perceived negative becomes a benefit.

When Rafael Benitez tried to teach Luka Modric how to pass a ball, for example, his attempts to help the Croatian weren’t taken in good spirits. The former Spurs man is one of the best passers in the game these days, but Benitez played as a midfielder only in the lower leagues, and Modric didn’t take him seriously. And for the rest of his tenure, neither did his players.

There are countless examples of managers who weren’t top players being unable to get their ideas across to their team in training because they’re managing at a much higher level than they themselves played at. Giggs wouldn’t have such an issue. He would, however, have the opposite problem if he took on a job at a lower level, the age-old problem of being a much better player than your own current squad.

Whatever Giggs does next, you get the feeling that unless he is possessing of an exceptional emotional intelligence to understand players of a lower level than he’s been used playing with to all of his career, then he’ll struggle unless he gets a top job. And given his spell as a coach so far came during the post-Ferguson transition years at Old Trafford, that doesn’t really look like an option.

Article title: Ryan Giggs and the perils of great players transitioning into management

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