Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs has retired from playing after being na
med assistant to new coach Louis van Gaal.
Giggs, 40, made a club record 963 appearances for United and played 64 times for Wales.
He is the most decorated player in the English game, having won 13 league titles, four FA Cups and two Champions Leagues, among 34 trophies.
He said: “Today is a new chapter filled with many emotions – immense pride, sadness, but most of all, excitement.”
Giggs never managed to reach a major international tournament with Wales. But he did skipper Team GB at London 2012, only to lose in the quarter-finals to South Korea on penalties.
He made his last appearance in the 3-1 win over Hull on 6 May, when he replaced youngster Tom Lawrence for the last 20 minutes of the game.
“My dream was always to play for Manchester United,” he said.
“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.
“I am immensely proud, honoured and fortunate to have represented the biggest club in the world 963 times and Wales 64 times.
“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. I hope to be there every step of the way.”
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward added: “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.”
Long-time team-mate Rio Ferdinand added on Twitter that Giggs had “so many gold medals he puts B.A. Baracus to shame”.
Ferdinand, whose own United career ended last week, added that “no player” had adapted their game as well and as effectively “as Giggsy”.
From making a goalscoring debut against Everton in 1991, the Cardiff-born player has remained at the very top of English football.
In addition to the huge number of medals, Giggs also has a host of personal accolades to his name.
His sensational goal against Arsenal in the 1999 semi-final replay has been voted the greatest FA Cup goal of all time.
He was voted the number one player in the Premier League era and, in 2009, was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Failing to reach the finals of a major tournament with Wales was a source of regret – the nearest he got was the 1994 World Cup.
His international retirement in 2007 was aimed at winning more honours at club level and he went on to collect a further four titles and the European Cup, when United defeated Chelsea on penalties in 2008.
Giggs, who was interim United boss for four matches following the sacking of former manager David Moyes, said: “Today is a fantastic day for Manchester United.
“Louis van Gaal is a great appointment and I am delighted to be working with someone of his calibre.
“His credentials are second to none and I’m positive the club will thrive under his leadership over the coming years.”
After the downturn this season, when United failed to secure European football of any description, slumping to their lowest league finish in 24 years, Woodward will be hoping for a swift return to the style Giggs is so famous for.
“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,” said Woodward.
“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.”
While Giggs’s retirement marks the end of an era given he is the only player to have appeared in all 21 seasons of the Premier League, it does seem to pave the way towards taking the manager’s seat himself at some point in the future.
Giggs has never made any secret of his managerial ambitions and former United assistant boss Mike Phelan feels he has the right credentials.
“He definitely has experience on his side and he has the name and the clout behind him because of who he is and what he has achieved,” Phelan told BBC Radio 5 live.
“I think [Premier League management] is the natural progression for Ryan, and I think it will happen in the next two or three years.”