Out with the old, in with the new
Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" provides the tune and inspiration for one of football's most enduring and appropriate chants: "Giggs, Giggs will tear you apart again."
It rang through the tannoy at Old Trafford with loud exuberance before kickoff against Hull on Tuesday night. Manchester is a centre of unique civic pride and having one of their favourite sons managing the football team inspired this anthem to resonate with more vigour than usual. This 3-1 victory could have been Giggs' final bow as a player. We are yet to learn what the future holds for his legendary number 11 shirt.
The ground was just over half-full as the teams took the field. This season cannot end soon enough for most Manchester United supporters. As the final weekend approaches, the difference compared to last year could not be more pronounced. Sir Alex Ferguson appears even more immense in retirement than he did during his pomp.
With Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea taking it in turns to choke on the final furlong, one can't escape the thought that Ferguson would surely have won this title. Pushing his men towards victory was what United's former manager did. Old Trafford remains the home of the champions, but just for a few more days.
Nemanja Vidic was presented with a parting gift by Bobby Charlton prior to kickoff and the sense of an era ending almost masked a genuinely fascinating starting XI from Ryan Giggs. James Wilson and Tom Lawrence were promoted from the club's youth ranks and given debuts that no one could have predicted. Wilson combined with the delightful Adnan Januzaj and the clattering Marouane Fellaini to score United's two opening goals and lift the heart. The first saw him react fastest in the box from Fellaini's knock-down, and the second similarly relied upon his reactions after the Belgian had had an effort blocked.
Old Trafford and Manchester United have borne witness to the birth of so many young careers, not least that of Giggs himself. A future involving Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt would surely include more of this daring trust of young talent. The soul of the club is intact.
After the match, Phil Neville tweeted "You can have the best academy set-ups but the test is to put them in first team consistently -- stick with them trust them and believe in them."
It should not go unnoticed that Giggs was clinical enough to drop Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra from the matchday squad altogether. Should the Welshman find himself at the helm again the future, there can be few fears that he will be undone by the "old pals" act. Giggs was chastened after the defeat to Sunderland; he wanted victory against Hull and rang the changes to get it.
With the match largely won after Wilson's goals, it was time for Giggs to join the action. He hit the field on 70 minutes and was more effective in his 20 minutes than Fellaini was in 90. As a player, Giggs has still got it, and he proved it with his layoff for Robin van Persie's late clinching goal.
After the final whistle, the player-manager addressed the crowd with sensational poise. The man is a born leader -- there is no romance in saying this -- he has incredible presence, and where he walks, others will follow.
United are set to delay the announcement of Louis van Gaal's appointment until after the final match on Sunday. The Dutchman will be charged with winning back the league title for United, and he will do it stood alongside Ryan Giggs.
"A glimpse of the future" was how Giggs described the debuts of Wilson and Lawrence. It could also have been an echo of the past. One thing united all in attendance: nobody wants to experience a season as disastrous as this again.
"The good times will come back soon," Giggs promised. You kind of believe him, too.
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