Ryan Giggs has said that he sought help from a psychologist to deal with his departure from Manchester United, on the day he was unveiled as Chris Coleman’s successor as Wales manager.
The former United midfielder has signed a four-year contract to take charge for the qualification campaigns for the 2020 European Championship and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar having last coached as an assistant to Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford. He left that role in June 2016.
The 44-year-old was preferred to Craig Bellamy, Mark Bowen and Coleman’s former assistant Osian Roberts, with the Football Association of Wales chief executive, Jonathan Ford, saying he had been encouraged by Giggs’s “passion and dedication” in his interview on Thursday.
Giggs, who won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues in more than 25 years at United, said spells on the club’s coaching staff convinced him his future was in management. He has been working as a technical observer for Uefa and sought professional help after he departed Old Trafford when José Mourinho took over from Van Gaal.
“It opens your eyes that there is a big world out there other than football,” he said. “I actually saw a psychologist when I left United because of that very reason. I’d been from school, the same thing going into Manchester United. I was about to start a new chapter when some of the days I wouldn’t be doing anything. So I sought someone’s help regarding that and it was just about managing your week.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I’d never needed a psychologist when I was playing but it was little things – join a gym half an hour away so it breaks up your day and you’re not just going to a gym around the corner. Little things like that helped because I was going into the unknown with the structure of United. It was brilliant – rather than fear it I actually enjoyed it. But I missed football as well so I’m glad to be back.”
Despite some opposition to his appointment among Wales supporters given his reputation for missing friendlies in his playing career because of club commitments – he won 64 caps across 16 years – Giggs was adamant that he would ensure Wales have their strongest squad available as he attempts to build on the Euro 2016 semi-final appearance.
“I played over 1,000 games and I didn’t get there without managing myself,” he said. “Early on in my career I had problems with my hamstrings and missed loads of United games but the criticism I’m getting is something I just have to deal with by winning games. I think it is a bit unfair but football’s about opinions.
“You have to have relationships with the clubs in international football and that’s what I plan to do. It’s about managing what is best for the player and also for the country. When you’ve got Champions League quarter‑finals and you are asking the players to travel all around the world, it’s just about striking that balance. There has to be a flexibility.”
That approach looks set to be tested immediately with Wales due to face China on 22 March in Beijing in Giggs’s first match. But, with qualifiers for Euro 2020 not due to start until next year, he should have plenty of time to bed in. Giggs revealed he had consulted Sir Alex Ferguson before deciding to take the job, admitting that he would “have been stupid not to” speak to his former manager at United.
“It was pretty short really, which is normally the conversation with Sir Alex. He wished me luck and congratulations and said the phone is there if I ever need him. It hasn’t been so much advice rather than conversations really and little tips. I’m fortunate to have someone like that to lean on. But I also want to be my own manager.”