Manchester: Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs is set to leave after almost 29 years of service, the English Premier League club announced on Saturday in a widely expected move following Jose Mourinho's appointment as manager.
The 42-year-old Welshman — an integral part of the great side built by Alex Ferguson and who made a record 963 appearances — is keen to pursue a managerial career, having been assistant manager during the unsuccessful spells of David Moyes and then Louis van Gaal.
"It has not been a decision that I have made lightly. I'll take away so many special memories as well as a lifetime of experiences that will, I hope, serve me well in the future," said Giggs in a statement issued by the club.
"However, the time feels right and although I have no immediate plans to step into management, it is where I want to be."
Giggs, who won 13 league titles and two Champions League trophies amongst other honours, said that it was an enormous wrench for him.
"After 29 seasons at Manchester United as a player and assistant manager, I know winning is in the DNA of this Club - giving youth a chance, and playing attacking and exciting football,"
"It’s healthy to have high expectations, it’s right to expect to win. Manchester United expects, deserves, nothing less,"
"This is why it is a huge decision for me to step away from the club that has been my life since the age of 14."
Mourinho, who had already been lined up to replace van Gaal after the Dutchman failed to qualify Manchester United for next season's Champions League, is keen to have his own backroom staff along with him which means Rui Faria replacing Giggs.
Giggs, who Mourinho reportedly suspected of disloyalty and spinning against Moyes and then van Gaal when their fortunes slumped, was offered a different role but declined it.
But there was no rancour in Giggs' statement, released by United, towards the Portuguese manager.
"I want to congratulate Jose Mourinho on his appointment as manager of the world’s biggest club," said Giggs.
"There are only a handful of proven winners at the very highest level and Jose is unquestionably one of them. I know the fans will welcome him."
Ed Woodward, executive vice chairman, paid a handsome tribute to United's faithful servant.
"Ryan’s place in the history of Manchester United is assured," said Woodward.
"He has been a constant presence at the club since 1987 and during his playing days, regularly delighted crowds; first with his dazzling wing play and later with his intelligence and ability to dictate a game.
"He has all the attributes to be a terrific manager in the future."
Here, AFP Sports collates some of the most notable statistics of his stellar one-club career:
17: His age when he made his debut, inauspiciously as it turned out in a 2-0 defeat to Everton on March 2, 1991.
40: Time when at last his insatiable appetite and fitness finally gave out and he retired from strutting his wares on the pitch in May 2014.
963: Not surprisingly given his longevity he set the record for appearances in a United shirt this is the total for all competitions.
168: The number of times he hit the back of the net for United in all competitions.
13: His most productive haul for United in a single Premier League campaign came in 1993-94, his 13 league goals part of his highest-scoring season of 17 in all competitions.
1: Only on one campaign did Giggs fail to rack up at least one goal in the Premier League for United leaving the worst to last as it were, his final campaign in 2013-14.
0: He could never be accused of lacking passion but unlike the snarling images of Roy Keane and Gary Neville surrounding referees Giggs stayed out of trouble and as a result never received a red card.
4: He has had time in the managerial dugout as the man in charge, these four games he was caretaker manager of United post David Moyes being sacked in the 2013/14 campaign. He oversaw two wins, a draw and a defeat but it was never going to be enough for him to be rewarded with the job full-time and Louis van Gaal replaced Moyes.
34: The most decorated player in English football history with 34 medals: 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, nine Community Shields, two Champions Leagues, one World Club Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one UEFA Super Cup.
1: The number of trophies United have won since he retired as a player - last season's FA Cup, when assistant to Van Gaal, who was promptly sacked and Jose Mourinho.
0: The number of major continental finals he qualified for with Wales, although he did make an appearance for a specially permitted Great Britain team at the 2012 Olympics. Led by another world class talent, Gareth Bale, Wales reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time ever at Euro 2016 on Friday.