Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs has pulled down the curtain on a 23-year playing career by announcing his retirement as he becomes new manager’s Louis van Gaal’s assistant.
Giggs played a club record 963 matches for United since making his debut in March 1991, scoring 168 goals. Prior to the 2013-14 campaign he had scored in every Premier League season since its inception in 1992.
He ended the most recent campaign as the club’s caretaker manager following the sacking of David Moyes, and bid farewell to Old Trafford against Hull City after substituting himself on for the final 20 minutes.
“I am immensely proud, honoured and fortunate to have represented the biggest club in the world 963 times and Wales 64 times,” Giggs told the club’s official website.
“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.”
He added: “For me, today is a new chapter filled with many emotions – immense pride, sadness, but most of all, excitement towards the future.
“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.”
The 40-year-old was an integral part of United’s finest years under Sir Alex Ferguson, from the first Premier League title in 1993 to the most recent in 2013, via the 1999 treble and Champions League triumph in 2008.
His solo goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal will go down as arguably the most iconic in the competition’s history, and in 2008 he wrapped up the Premier League title by scoring the second goal against Wigan after coming off the bench to equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s club appearance record.
He broke the record 10 days later against Chelsea in Moscow, and scored what proved to be the decisive penalty in the shoot-out before Edwin van der Sar saved from Nicholas Anelka.
Giggs retires as the most decorated player in English football history, following a career littered with club and individual trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four Capital One Cups and two Champions Leagues.
He won the PFA Young Player of the Year on two occasions, in 1992 and 1993, as well as Manchester United’s version of the prize in 1991 and 1992.
In 2009 he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year and also won the senior PFA Player of the Year award. On six occasions he has been named in the PFA Team of the Year.
The Welshman, who represented his country 64 times, was awarded a testimonial in 2001 to commemorate 10 years of service at Old Trafford.
Giggs made his final United appearance last Tuesday when he replaced 20-year-old Tom Lawrence in the 70th minute. The stand-in boss had handed the 20-year-old Lawrence his full United debut alongside highly-rated 18-year-old striker James Wilson, who scored twice against the Tigers.