Norwich were no match for Manchester United as they eased to a 4-0 win in the Welshman’s first game in charge on a day which served to remind of United’s glorious heritage
By Peter Staunton at Old Trafford
As starts go, this was about as good as it gets. Ryan Giggs, the man who flew down the wing for nearly a quarter of a century in the red of Manchester United, took charge of his first game as manager against Norwich City. He strode purposefully down the touchline, drinking in the acclaim in his matchday suit ahead of kick-off, as the ground rose to its feet to greet him.
“I’ve walked out of that tunnel so many times in big games,” Giggs said. “And that’s the best feeling I’ve had. I felt 10 foot tall. I was so proud.” Ahead of him walked the Class of ’92 – Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, all stripped and ready for action; all in position as leaders of the next generation. The result was never in doubt.
If the presence of United royalty on the sidelines was a reminder of the club’s glorious heritage, the action on-field was dictated by a man who represents United’s present and future. Wayne Rooney was in his element as Giggs’s on-field general and will be central for the cause for the next five years. He scored twice and could have had more as he continually tested John Ruddy from range. The next objective for Rooney is to translate this type of display in games of higher consequence.
He was ably aided on the day by Danny Welbeck – one of two homegrown prospects in Giggs’s first starting XI. He was unlucky to come away from the game without scoring but his endeavour will have won him favour with the manager. It was his clever movement which yielded the penalty which set United on their way.
That was just before half-time and, in truth, there was not a lot different from the days of Moyes to that point. United probed without really being threatening but once Rooney set them going, there was a ruthlessness and thirst for goals absent under the Scot.
“The first half, the tempo probably wasn’t as quick as I’d like it to be,” Giggs said. “Maybe that was being down to a big week – an emotional week – and the lads have trained hard. It just took a bit of time for us to get going. The goal came at the perfect time. Going in at 1-0 I just said quicken up the tempo and we’ll be ok.”
Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones peppered the box with passes and crosses from the right. Shinji Kagawa came off the left wing to great effect, passing and probing.
Juan Mata, left out of the starting XI as Giggs pressed the reset button on the Moyes era, was eventually introduced with devastating consequence. “A half-hour masterclass,” was how Giggs described the Spaniard’s display which saw him score twice from close range.
As opponents go, Giggs could not have hand-picked better. Norwich are the worst away side in the division. They have earned eight points all season away from Carrow Road, scoring only 11 goals. They haven’t won a match on the road since December.
It was a case of back to the future for United and Giggs on Saturday in this routine dismantling of a desperate Norwich, now surely comdemned to the Championship. He spoke in his first press conference of the need for his side to play like the United of old. They did that to the strains of “Attack!, Attack!, Attack, Attack, Attack!” from the Stretford End. Eric Cantona and Andy Cole were among the United heroes of bygone years whose songs got an airing on a day that had the feeling of a throwback. But that was what the day – and this brief Giggs reign – was and will be about.
The fans also ran through their Giggs back catalogue with one new track for good measure. That was “Ryan Giggs’ Red and White Army”. It had a ring to it.