Ryan Giggs ended his 29-year association with Manchester United on Saturday, leaving the English Premier League club at the start of Jose Mourinho’s reign in a bid to become a manager himself.
“It’s time for a new chapter and a new challenge,” the 42-year-old former winger said.
Giggs was an exception in soccer by spending his entire playing career at one club. After joining in 1987, Giggs went on to appear a record 963 times for the first team, mostly under Alex Ferguson. In tandem, Giggs became British soccer’s most decorated player and Ferguson the most successful manager.
“It is a huge decision for me to step away from the club that has been my life since the age of 14,” Giggs said in a statement. “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.
“However, the time feels right and, although I have no immediate plans to step into management, it is where I want to be.”
After 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League triumphs, Giggs brought an end to his playing career in 2014 to become Louis van Gaal’s assistant manager. It followed a four-game stint as interim manager after Ferguson’s short-lived successor, David Moyes, was fired.
Although Giggs wasn’t a serious contender to retain the job on a full-time basis, it appeared he was being groomed by United as a future manager.
But he endured two turbulent years in the dugout alongside Van Gaal as the team’s fortunes briefly improved before slumping again.
When Van Gaal was dismissed after two seasons in May — despite winning the FA Cup — United turned to Mourinho rather than Giggs to lead the club’s recovery.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate in having two great managerial mentors; first in Sir Alex, who I’ve spent the majority of my life working with and learning from, and who I believe will remain as football’s greatest ever manager, and in more recent times, Louis van Gaal, whose CV speaks for itself,” Giggs said. “The knowledge I have gleaned from them has been invaluable.”
Giggs won’t get a chance to experience working alongside Mourinho, who is yet to announce his coaching staff.
“There are only a handful of proven winners at the very highest level and Jose is unquestionably one of them,” Giggs said of the two-time Champions League winner. “I know the fans will welcome him.”
United said Giggs will always be welcome back at Old Trafford where fans display a banner reading “Giggs — Tearing You Apart Since 1991.”
Now it is Giggs tearing himself apart from United where he also won four FA Cups, three League Cups, one Uefa Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup, and a Club World Cup.
United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward recalled on Saturday how Giggs delighted crowds with his “dazzling wing play and later with his intelligence and ability to dictate a game.”
“He has tackled his coaching and management responsibilities with similar rigor and diligence,” Woodward added. “The experiences and discipline he developed at United will undoubtedly be a big help as he continues to learn his trade. He has all the attributes to be a terrific manager in the future.”