Whoever takes over United job will have his hands full
MAN UNITED 0
(Sebastian Larsson 30)
Ryan Giggs' honeymoon period has come to an abrupt end.
Just as last week's 4-0 home win over Norwich breathed some life into a new era for Manchester United, yesterday's 1-0 defeat by Sunderland at Old Trafford hammered home some painful realities.
Whoever takes over the reins - at the moment that's likely to be Louis van Gaal - has a huge task on his hands.
Going by this mediocre performance, it may be a while before they rediscover the aura that sets them apart from the rest.
It also made a mockery of suggestions that Giggs should be given the job full-time.
The Welshman may be a legend tipped for future managerial stardom, but he may be at the right place at the wrong time.
Given the licence to express themselves on the field, the players attempted to replicate the attacking game that Sir Alex Ferguson used to get out of them week in, week out.
But something seemed to be missing.
Perhaps the string of disappointments this season has taken a toll on their confidence. This was their seventh league loss at home this term.
Or maybe this was the wrong time to face a rejuvenated Sunderland who had collected seven points from their previous three matches, and now have 10 points out of four.
Whatever the reason, this was a display eerily empty.
From the players' numerous misplaced passes to goalkeeper David de Gea's appalling clearances, the signs were clear that United's problems will not disappear just with the sacking of David Moyes.
The onus is on the club to find someone capable of instilling the character back into a side capable of so much more.
In the move that led to the goal, Connor Wickham should never have been given the space to cross inches from the corner flag.
Darren Fletcher naively backed off, and one could only presume that he was trying to avoid conceding a corner.
Sebastian Larsson dashed into the box to send an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner of the net.
United had an entire hour to claw back from the deficit.
But they simply couldn't break down the organised and determined visitors, although they came close on several occasions.
Nemanja Vidic headed just wide. Phil Jones scuffed a shot from inside the box. Javier Hernandez, unmarked, blasted one wildly over the bar from close range.
Giggs also sent in three attacking players in the second half - Adnan Januzaj, Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie - but there continued to be no real conviction in United's play.
Instead, it was the Black Cats who nearly found the second goal.
Emanuele Giaccherini struck the post with his first-time effort.
Fabio Borini unleashed a wicked curler against the crossbar.
United ended up with the lion's share of the possession, but it was Sunderland who possessed the thrust.
Giggs couldn't come up with the solution.
Hopefully, for the United fans, his successor has a ready-made one.
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Giggs backs van Gaal
Ryan Giggs has given a glowing assessment of the man who is likely to pip him to his dream job.
There is growing support inside the dressing room and from the club's vast fan base for Giggs to be handed the Manchester United job on a full-time basis.
United are set to appoint Louis van Gaal instead, though, as the Holland coach has far more experience than the Welshman, who is yet to complete his Uefa Pro Licence exams.
Giggs has come up against van Gaal's teams on three occasions - in 1998 when the 62-year-old was in charge of Barcelona - and four years ago when United bowed out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich over two legs.
Giggs had nothing but warm words for van Gaal when asked about his potential successor on Friday.
"He has a brilliant reputation," the United interim boss said. "He is a successful manager in different countries. Obviously, he has taken Holland to the World Cup. He has a fantastic pedigree."
What role Giggs plays under van Gaal remains to be seen.
A number of options remain open for Giggs, who started his four-match spell in charge with a 4-0 win over Norwich last weekend.
Giggs could coach under van Gaal, he could play for the Dutchman or he may depart for pastures new after 24 years at Old Trafford.
The midfielder said that he will not decide his future until the end of the season.
"My concentration is on the remaining three games and then I will see what happens at the end of the season," Giggs said.
"I have got to decide if I want to play or not, so there is no point thinking if I want to be an assistant or if I want to be a manager somewhere else.
"There are so many things to think about, but that's in the future.
"I honestly don't know (what I will do)."
When the 75,000 fans inside Old Trafford stood to applaud Giggs as he strolled down the touchline in his club suit last Saturday, it was like a scene out of a Hollywood film.
If Giggs is to say goodbye to United this summer, there are only two more chances for him to run out on to the pitch at Old Trafford.
Giggs did not ditch his suit and slip on the United kit for last night's match against Sunderland and there is a possibility that he will not turn out in the final home match of the season against Hull three days later.
"As footballers, we are pretty superstitious so (I will keep) my suit on (for the Sunderland game)," Giggs said.
"I am still training and doing bits and pieces so I am still in the frame for playing the remaining games or being involved."
- PA Sport.