Ryan Giggs' immediate future might be away from Manchester United
It's July 2014 and, at St. George's Park, the futuristic new home of the England national football teams, a small group of coaches are completing their UEFA Pro Licence, the highest coaching level.
Ryan Giggs is one and another is Micky Mellon, the current Shrewsbury Town manager. The two men will be on opposite benches on Monday night at the New Meadow for an FA Cup fifth round tie between Shrewsbury Town and Manchester United.
The Premier League club have lost their last two games and, while Shrewsbury are a third-tier side, the chances of a shock are increased when so many of United's players are out injured and confidence is low.
Giggs, 42, is a man under pressure and subject to speculation about his future, but one thing which has never changed is his determination to be a manager.
Asked what he'd learned from that UEFA course, Giggs told me: "The biggest thing was my ability to take myself out of my comfort zone. It was tough. You had different personalities there; people who'd been coaching for years like Chris Powell, Paul Ince or Micky Mellon. Wayne Burnett, the Dagenham & Redbridge manager, was there, as was Ritchie Barker who has managed three teams. They were all comfortable speaking and coaching, but less comfortable in other areas; they hadn't done a lot of press work, for example. I was fine doing the press work and speaking in a group."
Giggs was pushed.
"I felt like I was challenging myself and it wasn't nice," he said. "I made mistakes, but I learned from them."
Giggs returned to Old Trafford for the start of the 2014-15 season. As new manager Louis van Gaal's assistant, the Welshman's emphasis was on watching future opponents, a job Van Gaal had given to Jose Mourinho at Barcelona.
The plan was for Giggs to continue learning and then succeed Van Gaal after three years. It was not an idea the Dutchman had a problem with and nor did United fans, who liked the thought of a one-club man continuing his professional life there.
Now, though, there's little appetite in polls among fans for Giggs becoming United manager. Supporters want Van Gaal to be dismissed and replaced by Mourinho as soon as possible.
Such polls always sway with results and favour the fashionable names of the day. In 1992, United fans wanted their faltering strike force bolstered by the signing of Sheffield Wednesday's David Hirst, but it was Leeds United's Eric Cantona who arrived to do the job.
But Mourinho has been the standout choice among fans to replace his former boss for two months, especially since Pep Guardiola announced that he was joining Manchester City next season. United fans also know that the Portuguese wants the job, that he's desperate for it.
Giggs also knows and understands this. He knows that his stock has been damaged by sitting alongside a failing manager who, as his assistant, he has a duty to support. He knows that his chances of getting a job he feels ready to take have receded from probable to implausible. A job he was told he was getting is now anything but certain.
He knows United have spoken to others about becoming manager, just as others have sounded him out about becoming their manager. He's had offers; he has offers.
Giggs' trust in the club at which he's spent the majority of his life is not at a lifetime high, but when a team's form slumps as badly as has United's since December, such things are bound to happen.
Giggs knows that he enjoys support from United heavyweights like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill and Sir Bobby Charlton. Yet this trio, while directors, don't have the power or influence they once enjoyed. Though their opinions may be sought, Old Trafford's power base lies elsewhere.
Executive vice-president Ed Woodward makes the decisions with owners Joel and Avi Glazer. History is unlikely to reflect well on Woodward for appointing David Moyes and Van Gaal, so it's vital that his next choice, ever more imminent after a dire season for United, works out.
So Mourinho is the favourite, even if his mode of operation is well known; he manages at a club for two or three years and then moves on, usually in acrimony.
Just as Barcelona didn't want to risk appointing him before they made Pep Guardiola their manager in 2008, so there's resistance to Mourinho and his mischief making at United. They don't like the way his people are briefing to media, nor his poor record of bringing through young players, yet there's a momentum towards Mourinho.
Giggs knows all this and that he's far more likely to be working away from United next season. Which might not be a bad thing. He'd be on a hiding to nothing, expected to compete for the league title straight away, despite United's squad needing considerable work to make them challengers. It's a massive job for anyone, let alone an inexperienced boss.
Friends who love the idea of Giggs being United manager one day think he'd better off away from Old Trafford at present, while the club is in a mess and the working environment is strained.
There's significant support among fans for Giggs returning as boss when he's got more managerial experience -- if he does well. Indeed, some even want him to stay in a told other than manager, perhaps as an assistant again or with younger players alongside Nicky Butt.
Giggs is adamant that he's ready to be a first-team manager, though. But he's also a pawn in the shifting plates of power at United and a change of air might be good for him.
When I asked him which aspects of management surprised him during his four games in charge of United in 2014, he said: "Everything that comes with management. The game is the straightforward part. The harder bit is sorting out loans and players contracts. The human side can be tough. You are dealing with someone's life, career and livelihood. It feels like you are getting little jabs all day. There are no knock out punches, just little jabs which build up. You either fall over or rise to it. You should always expect the unexpected."
Giggs is ready for the unexpected, but sentiment is moving against him doing it at Old Trafford. At least for now.
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.