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Giggs to protect young United starlets

As the newly appointed assistant manager to Louis van Gaal, Ryan Giggs has been tasked to prevent United losing their brightest young talent to big money offers at home and abroad. The Daily Mail is reporting that incoming manager van Gaal wants Giggs to be a liaison between the under-21 squad and the first-team in order to prevent a repeat of the exodus of young talent from Old Trafford that has occurred in recent years.

In 2008, the newly crowned Kings of Europe lost a young central defender by the name of Gerard Pique, who wanted a return to Barcelona. A year later, that same defender kept a clean sheet in the Champions League final against the Reds as Barcelona took United’s European crown in Rome. Pique has since gone on to win a second Champions League medal, multiple titles and achieved world domination with the Spanish national side.

In 2012, Paul Pogba left United on a free transfer bound for Juventus. He cited a lack of first team opportunities at Old Trafford, and following his move to Turin he has gone on to win back to back Serie A titles. At just 21 years of age he is considered to be one of the top young talents in world football, and if rumours are to be believed, a move to bring the Frenchman back to Manchester would cost upwards of £60m. Staggering to think both he and Pique were in and around the United first team and yet slipped from their grasp so suddenly.

It is not just the high-profile exits that will alarm those both inside and outside of the club. There have been a couple of youngsters who have left despite showing the potential for a first team future at Manchester United. Both Ravel Morrison and Ezequiel Fryers have departed in recent years, and have gone on to feature for West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur respectively, and both are expected to go on to have excellent Premier League careers.

Following this string of exits, United are keen to avoid this happening in the future, and Louis van Gaal has already made his first move to protect the youth players by tasking Giggs with ensuring their futures stay in Manchester.

Giggs appears to be the ideal man for the job. As an academy graduate himself with over twenty years of first team experience, Giggs knows exactly what it takes to make the grade at Old Trafford and van Gaal will expect Giggs to recommend which players he believes can make the step up to the first-team, whether in training or first-team matches. Of course Giggs is no stranger to judging the talent coming through the ranks at United, as he handed both James Wilson and Tom Lawrence their United debuts against Hull City in the final home game of the season, Giggs’ penultimate game as Interim Manchester United manager.

Manchester United as an institution has been built on the success of homegrown talent. Started by Sir Matt with the Busby Babes in the 1950’s right through to Fergie’s Fledglings with the Class of 92 having such enormous success under Sir Alex in the 1990’s, it is clear that the United way is to believe in youth. The club boasts a record of 3,700 consecutive games in which a youth product has been involved in the first team squad, either playing or on the bench. Every single game since October 1937, that is some heritage to maintain.

Of course Giggs will already know plenty about the young talent in the youth sides at United. As a senior member of the playing staff and a coach last season, the Welshman took a vested interest in the likes of James Wilson, Tom Lawrence, Andreas Pereira and many others, and will already know which players can be promoted at Old Trafford. With Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville all returning to the club at various points over the last few years, the ‘Class of 92’ has had a real opportunity to evaluate the next crop of youngsters with their vast experience, knowledge that will serve Giggs and United immeasurably going forward.

This is a smart move from Louis van Gaal. The newly appointed manager has a history of promoting youth players wherever he has been, and has been responsible for the introduction of Patrick Kluivert, Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller, players who have all gone on to become world stars thanks to the Dutchman’s stewardship at a young age. Now he is clearly looking to replicate the same model at United, and Giggs will command the respect necessary to convince young players that their future lies at Old Trafford. It is not just his personal achievements that commands utter respect from his peers and the young players who look up to him, it is also the success of the United teams he has played in. The famous Treble-winning side of 1999 is the perfect example of what can be achieved by young academy graduates who work hard, stay humble, and play for the shirt, rather than moving on for the first multi-million pound contract they are offered. The Class of 92; Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Butt and Gary & Phil Neville were the bedrock of that side. They came through the ranks together, they understood the club and the fans and what it meant to represent Manchester United. They achieved everything in the game, and they did so playing for the team they all supported as kids. It was something special, and something that may not happen again in our lifetimes.

But that is the task facing Ryan Giggs now. He will need to ensure the young players at Manchester United listen to his advice, not that of their agent. The club would do well to keep Phil Neville and Nicky Butt at the club, and a role for Paul Scholes would be invaluable. It is important for young players to learn the values they did. If they focus on their football, then the cars, women, endorsement deals and mega-money contracts will all take care of themselves. Playing for a club like Manchester United is a unique thing, and there is nobody who knows United better than Giggs.

The club has already shown in the last 12 months just how much they value the talent the academy is able to produce, and how they plan to continue to integrate it into the Manchester United first team. The David Moyes reign had very few high points, too few to mention, but the emergence of Adnan Januzaj was a beacon of light. Following his emergence into the side, there were fears the club would lose the young Belgian to a big money offer the same way Pogba and Morrison were prised away. PSG were ready to make Januzaj the highest paid teenager in world football, and there were real concerns that the money would convince him to swap Manchester for Paris. David Moyes deserves a lot of credit for convincing the player to sign a new five year contract at United, and he is now at the club that can fully develop his talent and go on to have the incredible career that we all expect of him.

So it appears the unbelievable career of Ryan Giggs will take another twist. From fledgling talent to flair player, he then became an experienced senior pro before making the jump to coach and then interim manager. Now he becomes protector of the future. His retirement last month felt like the passing of the guard and a monumental hole will be left in the Manchester United squad now that he is no longer on the playing staff. It is now down to Giggs to see his legacy protected by those he deems fit to fill his own boots, and I for one believe he is perfect for the job. United have always been about trusting in the youth players, and under Louis van Gaal it appears that the future will be no different. Don’t forget, you can’t win anything with kids…

By Adem Berkay

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