Ryan Giggs has told ESPN FC that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must secure a top four finish in the Premier League and oversee a successful cup run if he is to emerge as the frontrunner to become Manchester United’s next permanent manager.
Solskjaer has guided United to seven successive victories in league and cup since assuming the role of caretaker manager following Jose Mourinho’s dismissal as manager last month.
The Norwegian, who is due to return to his job as Molde coach at the end of the season, has earned the support of United’s players and supporters as a potential long-term appointment after changing the mood at Old Trafford on and off the pitch.
But with United’s owners, the Glazer family, also considering the merits of Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and England manager Gareth Southgate, Wales manager Giggs, who had four games in caretaker charge of United following the sacking of David Moyes in April 2014, believes Solskjaer still has to prove himself as the right man for the job.
“I think he [Solskjaer] does need a longer run, but he’s making a brilliant case for it,” Giggs told ESPN FC. “And if he carries on then why not, because he’s got that experience with [assistant] Mick Phelan coming in as well.
“He’s got the link to the club, Michael [Carrick] and the coaching staff, obviously Ole as well, and the players look like they are enjoying themselves, the fans are enjoying themselves.
“The whole place has had a massive lift, so if you can keep that, that says something.
“But he will probably have to finish in the top four and do well in the FA Cup or the Champions League and then it would be very hard for him to not get the job.”
During his own brief spell as caretaker manager at United, Giggs guided the team to two wins, a draw and a defeat.
And from his own experience in the interim role, Giggs said Solskjaer deserves more credit for the winning run he has masterminded since replacing Mourinho.
“It’s not easy and a lot of people have been slightly disrespectful, saying there’s no pressure,” Giggs said. “You put yourself under pressure. You’re manager of the biggest club in the world, so you’re going to put yourself under pressure. For him [Solskjaer] to, for any team, to win seven on the bounce is not easy, no matter who you are playing.
“In there, he’s had some relatively tricky games. OK, I think there’s probably bigger tests to come, but the momentum that he’s got [is there now].
“The biggest thing for me, personally, is seven or eight games ago, you never knew your starting XI.
“Now more or less, you may change one or two, whereas a couple of months ago I think everyone would be arguing, fans would be arguing five or six players needed changing. But now he’s got a pretty settled side, other than tweaking the odd player.”
Solskjaer can make it eight wins in succession if United taste victory against Arsenal at the Emirates in Friday’s FA Cup fourth round clash.
The tie will evoke memories of the famous clash between the two sides in 1999, when Giggs’s solo goal at Villa Park edged the semifinal in United’s favour and kept Sir Alex Ferguson’s team on course to win the Treble.
Much has changed at both clubs during the intervening 20 years and Giggs admits he cannot believe that two decades have passed since his iconic goal.
“It probably doesn’t seem that long ago,” he said. “When the FA Cup comes around, a lot of people want to talk about the goal.
“It was a special moment for me and I’ll be happy if one of the players can do that again on Friday. “It’s always a big game, United-Arsenal, and it’ll be a big one because it’s an important game, obviously for United to keep the momentum going. It won’t be easy because Arsenal are a good team, with a good coach, but we’re flying at the moment.”
“In ’99, it was two teams who would grace any Premier League season because of the teams that they had — the managers, the individuals, they both played football, they both got stuck in.
“That was probably one of the toughest sides that I’ve ever faced.
“We’re not quite there yet with both teams, but they are showing signs of improvement.
“Both teams are huge clubs, with a massive rivalry and I’m looking forward to watching the game.”