Ryan Giggs has ended his glittering playing career following his appointment as assistant to new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. The 40-year-old announced his retirement soon after it was confirmed he would serve as number two to Van Gaal at Old Trafford.
Giggs is the most decorated player in English football history having won 34 trophies in a career which began at the age of 17 in 1991. His honours included 13 English Premier League titles and two UEFA Champions League successes while he made a record 963 appearances for United, scoring 168 goals.
Giggs, who also earned 64 caps for Wales, announced his decision in an open letter to supporters on United's official website. He said: "My dream was always to play for Manchester United, and although it saddens me to know I won't be pulling on a United jersey again as a player, I have been lucky enough to have fulfilled that dream playing with some of the best players in the world, working under an incredible manager in Sir Alex Ferguson, and most of all, playing for the greatest fans in world football."
Giggs had long been expected to move into coaching after his retirement and he took the first steps in that direction by serving as a player-coach over the past year at United. He then took over as interim manager after the sacking of David Moyes in April, overseeing the final four games of the 2013/14 season.
Giggs expresses sadness, excitement
United were thought keen to retain his services in a coaching capacity and his future is believed to have been a key part of negotiations with Van Gaal. Giggs said: "For me, today is a new chapter filled with many emotions - immense pride, sadness, but most of all, excitement towards the future.
"United fans I hope will share and echo my belief that the club, the management and owners, are doing everything they can to return this great club to where it belongs, and I hope to be there every step of the way. To the greatest fans in world football, thank you, I have loved every minute of playing for you and representing the biggest and best club in the world."
Giggs came through United's youth ranks and was a member of their famous 'Class of '92' group of FA Youth Cup winners. He thrilled fans throughout his career, as a dynamic winger in his younger days and latterly as a central midfielder. His status as one of the finest players of his era had long been secured.
United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: "Ryan Giggs has been one of the greatest players ever to wear the red shirt of Manchester United. What he has achieved will never be equalled in the English game.
"In the way he played, he was the embodiment of a Manchester United player - fast, skilful, entertaining and determined to win by playing exciting football. His progress from the ranks of the famous 'Class of '92' to the most decorated player in this or any club's history is down to his hard work, ability and attitude. He is at the start of an exciting new chapter in his and the club's life but now is the right moment to reflect on the achievements of the finest British player of the last 25 years."