Man Utd welcome Norwich City to Old Trafford on Saturday evening with Ryan Giggs, a stalwart on the left wing since his debut in March 1991, taking charge of his first game as interim player-manager at Old Trafford – the club’s third manager in 11 months. That statistic sounds somewhat alarming considering Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary Scot who retired from control at the Red Devils at the end of the 2012-13 season, had been in charge for over 26 years.
Then-Everton boss David Moyes was called up by Ferguson to take over, and the 50-year-old duly arrived at the club for the first time in July – but was dismissed on Tuesday with United sitting seventh in the Premier League table and facing a massive struggle to reach qualification for European competition next season.
Moyes’ departure marks the first time that the manager of the defending Premier League champions has departed the club during the following season, with the only comparable scenario being Kenny Dalglish who finished managerial duties at Blackburn Rovers shortly after leading the Lancashire club to the Premier League title in 1995, moving up to Director of Football and being replaced by Ray Harford in the Ewood Park hotseat. Dalglish departed the club altogether 12 months later, alongside Harford who was dismissed following a disappointing title defense.
Giggs takes over at United as almost a polar opposite to Moyes – a man with a wealth of experience in regards to how Man Utd operate as a club, but with relatively little experience behind the scenes. Moyes has enjoyed a storied career already as a coach and manager, while Giggs’ own CV extends thus far to some much more recent coaching experience at the club. The Welshman, however, is indisputably United through and through, and so the steady hand he is likely to cast may well serve the club well during the final few games of the season. He made his debut less than five years after Fergusons’ own arrival, and that influence will surely only benefit the players on the pitch.
Giggs has help at the club from fellow United alumni Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville – all members of the team that Alan Hansen famously predicted would fail in 1996 by stating “you can’t win anything with kids”; and a group who have become known as the “class of 92”, which also featured the likes of David Beckham and Gary Neville.
Norwich, on the other hand, find themselves fighting for their Premier League lives. The Canaries finished the first ever Premier League season – the same season that Ferguson himself lead United to their first league title in 26 years – by finishing third, but have come and gone since then. This year, however, they find themselves in the safe zone with only a two point cushion over the relegation spots going into this game, and with Cardiff and Sunderland – who are both capable of overtaking the East Anglian outfit – going head to head on the banks of the river Wear on Sunday, coupled with the overall difficulty of their run-in, things are looking tough for new manager Neil Adams.
Giggs’ men are 4/11
In other fixtures, Liverpool are 4/6 to knock Chelsea out of the Premier League title chase by beating the Blues at Anfield on Sunday and continue their march towards the Premier League crown, while fellow title chasers Man City are 4/9
to keep the pressure up with a win at Crystal Palace.
Fulham are 5/4 favourites to take the points when they host Hull on Saturday afternoon to maintain their survival hopes after enjoying something of a revival under Felix Magath, and Sunderland are 10/11 to take the win and potentially get themselves out of the relegation zone by beating Cardiff on the banks of the river Wear on Sunday.