Class of 92

Coming to a dugout near you…

PAUL SCHOLES’ latest criticism of Louis van Gaal’s team merely voices what many people are thinking about Manchester United – hard to beat and hard to watch. But it also adds to the pressure building around the United manager and suggests that the inner sanctum at Old Trafford are at one on the future of the increasingly uncomfortable Van Gaal.

Scholes, of course, may have his own agenda – his pal Ryan Giggs, another member of the Class of ’92 alumni, is sitting alongside Van Gaal in the dugout. While most assistants become guilty by association, Giggs has not been tainted by United’s tepid performances this season, although the cynics might argue that if Giggs has no part in team displays, what value is he adding?.

Van Gaal, as awkward as he is, can probably do without sniping from the sidelines from past players. Scholes is not the only ex-player to speak out against the Dutchman’s regime. Gary Neville has done likewise, which must make life a little fraught for Giggs. To make the former Wales international even more awkward, his brother Rhodri has hit-out at Van Gaal and his tactics.

United fans won’t mind too much. There’s no great affection for LVG and you sense he is seen as an outsider, especially as the Class of ’92, as a brand, is gathering momentum and the next time there’s a management change at Old Trafford, many of the faithful will hope that Giggs, Scholes and the Nevs will come riding in like some sacred order of white-horsed knights.

But are they really qualified to be considered as management material? Gary Neville, who is an excellent TV pundit, is now manager at Valencia, a brave move by the former England defender. The Class of 92’s foray into non-league football has been successful and Salford City are riding high in the Northern Premier League Premier and won praise for their FA Cup run. But this is non-league.

United would be foolish to trust the Class of ’92 with such a high profile club. Doubtless they have the experience and understanding of the club to be easily accepted and know what is required of them, but a club of United’s stature needs a top-line manager who knows how to navigate European club football. The club knows only too well that great players don’t make great managers – not one of the Best – Charlton – Law triumvirate fitted comfortably in a track suit.

Neville is, so far, the only member of the Class to manage a top club – and these are early days for him in Spain. With the exception of Phil Neville, they are all over 40. Surely, if they were genuine managerial candidates, they would be dipping their toes by now – or are Bury, Rotherham and Oldham unattractive to former players that have known nothing but success, glamour and fawning on a grand scale?

Former players may not always work out as managers, but they make very good sideline critics. Bayern Munich has long been influenced by the club’s old guard, something which has worked well. But the club still go outside for their chief coaches – Heynkes, Guardiola and now Ancelotti. And at Ajax, Johan Cruyff has been a thorn in the side of the club’s administration for years – some might say, rightly so.

Cruyff, of course, is one of the people that have been critical of Van Gaal’s style of play. United, traditionally, do not like sideways football, although the stats will show that Arsenal and City are almost as crab-like in their approach. Old Trafford has a heritage of attacking football – the last manager who opted for safety-first was Dave Sexton, who was not exactly a failure, but was still shown the door.

It does seem as though LVG will not last too long at United, but it will leave the club with a tough decision.  Should they give it to Giggs? If they do not, will there be a public outcry? But should they put their faith in an untried manager? Giggs may have a future in the United hot-seat, but he needs to learn the trade outside of a club where he has been all his professional life. The club should also resist the temptation to try and rekindle something that has gone. Jobs for the boys?…no, jobs for the right boys – that’s what United need.

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