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02nd Dec 2015

Gary Neville has a real chance to leapfrog Ryan Giggs in the running to replace Louis van Gaal…

Simon Lloyd

On a day which began with Gary Neville being linked to the managerial vacancy at Fulham, the news that he has been appointed as the new boss at Valencia caught many by surprise.

The former Manchester United captain will take over at the Mestalla until the end of the season and will continue his work with the England team alongside Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson has been quick to praise the move, claiming that it is the “right moment” for him to take on such a challenging position.

“I’m delighted that Gary has decided to take this excellent opportunity,” said Hodgson. “It’s the right moment in time for him and I’m 100 per cent behind his decision to join Valencia as the new head coach.”

England v Italy - UEFA EURO 2012 Quarter Final

Plenty have been quick to suggest that Neville’s work in Spain could be a stepping stone for him to eventually replace Hodgson as England manager, whereas others have pointed out that it could also put him in the running for the Manchester United job.

It is widely believed that Ryan Giggs will jump into the hotseat at Old Trafford when Louis van Gaal departs (which some fans hope will be sooner rather than later), but Neville could now be about to launch himself as a genuine contender.

Giggs has worked alongside Van Gaal for nearly 18 months but there are nagging doubts in the minds of United fans that he doesn’t possess the necessary experience to succeed the Dutchman.

Neville’s decision to take the Valencia job is a bold one with no guarantees that it will be a success. But despite that obvious risk, the job will allow him to gain invaluable experience at the helm of a big European club.

In many ways, it would have been the perfect opportunity for Giggs to sever his ties (temporarily, at least) with United and prove that he can handle the pressures associated with being a manager.

But if Neville proves a success in Spain, in the minds of many, he will have put himself ahead of his former team-mate in contention for the Old Trafford job.

Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville

Giggs’ spell as caretaker boss following David Moyes’ sacking in 2014 left many United fans unsure as to whether he can eventually make the huge step up from his role as a coach.

And now Neville’s brave move to put himself in the firing line – whether it works out or not – will only add to the former club captain’s standing in the game.

There are challenges Neville is bound to face that Giggs simply won’t have the experience of by working as Van Gaal’s assistant.

If it also turns out that frequent reports of unrest in the United squad are true, it might not be the easiest move for Giggs to step into Van Gaal’s shoes following the hard line the Dutchman has taken.

Neville would be approaching the role with a fresh perspective, and experience of the biggest stage in La Liga and the Champions League with Valencia, and from his time with England at the World Cup and European Championship.

The gauntlet may have just been thrown – whether it was Neville’s intention or not – and Giggs will perhaps be left wondering what his old friend is planning next.