Wales give Ryan Giggs chance to show why he thinks he deserves the top jobs
Ryan Giggs believed he had a genuine chance of managing Manchester United when they sacked Louis van Gaal in May 2016.
After all, the Old Trafford icon had spent three years on the United backroom staff, initially under David Moyes and then Van Gaal, supposedly preparing for the day he would take charge after learning the ropes the old-fashioned way.
But when the moment came, United instead turned to the experience and gold-plated CV of Jose Mourinho, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward regarding the untested Giggs as too much of a gamble for the club following three years of treading water in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.
Giggs, who had four games in charge as caretaker-manager following Moyes' dismissal towards the end of the disastrous 2013-14 season, was instead offered a job in United's youth set-up -- a role he politely declined, believing that he had done enough to become a manager in his own right.
The view within United at the time was that they wanted Giggs to become manager at some point, but he had to go elsewhere to prove his credentials first.
Real Madrid turned to Zinedine Zidane and were rewarded with two Champions Leagues and a La Liga title, while Barcelona enjoyed similar success after handing Pep Guardiola his first managerial job at the Camp Nou in 2008, but United, perhaps because they were in transition and looking for a route back to the top, felt it was too much, too soon for Giggs.
But as he prepares to take his first steps in management with the Wales national team job, Giggs has discovered the hard way since leaving United that managerial jobs -- good ones, at least -- are harder to come by than Premier League winners' medals.
Giggs spent the latter years of his playing career, and then time under Moyes and Van Gaal, building up his coaching qualifications to the point that, after securing his UEFA Pro Licence, he had ticked every possible box in terms of gaining the tools for the job.
But once he missed out on the United job to Mourinho, he became just another coach / manager looking for a job and this season, more than any other, has shown that clubs are no longer prepared to gamble on a big-name player with no tangible experience of management.
At one point, that was the trend within the game, but Alan Shearer (Newcastle) and Gary Neville (Valencia) were thrown in at the deep end and saw their managerial ambitions sink without trace after taking the wrong job at the wrong time.
Clubs now want a manager with a proven track record, which is why we have seen Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson, Moyes and Alan Pardew return to Premier League management this season after brief spells out of work.
It is why Stoke City tried to entice former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores from Espanyol and then the Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill to replace the sacked Mark Hughes, before settling on old-stager Paul Lambert.
By choosing to launch his managerial career with Wales, however, Giggs has given himself the opportunity to prove himself quietly and with the benefit of time to do so.
He inherits a squad from Chris Coleman which reached the semifinals of Euro 2016 and narrowly failed to make the World Cup 2018 playoffs, so Wales have potential to bounce back, particularly players of the quality of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.
Success would open doors for Giggs to manage in the Premier League or in Europe and it would also take away the fear of the unknown, which is perhaps one reason why he has failed to land a club job capable of matching his ambitions.
He was interviewed for the Swansea City job last season before being overlooked in favour of Bob Bradley, but with the American sacked after just 11 games in charge, that one may have been a lucky escape for the former United star.
Similarly, managing United after Van Gaal could have been too big a task for relative rookie, regardless of his in-depth knowledge of the club and the players required to succeed at Old Trafford.
But just like Patrick Vieira at New York City FC, Giggs can now get to work and learn on the job, without having to deal with the intense pressure and unrealistic expectation that comes with Premier League management.
For a man who struggled to offer his availability for international friendlies during his playing career -- possibly on the word of Sir Alex Ferguson -- Giggs' first big test would be getting up for his first match: a friendly against China in Nanning in March.
It is probably not the route he expected, or wanted, to take when he plotted his managerial career path at Old Trafford, but at least he is now in the game again and that alone gives Giggs the chance to get to where he wants to be eventually.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_