Ryan Giggs at the heart of Manchester United's decades of success
Published 02/07/2016 | 14:46
The departure of Ryan Giggs from Manchester United breaks one of the club's strongest remaining links with the glorious Sir Alex Ferguson era.
For two decades Giggs has been at the heart of the success enjoyed by United's all-conquering side under Ferguson and it will be strange to see him working anywhere but Old Trafford in future.
His first steps into coaching over the past two seasons under Louis van Gaal - after calling time on his illustrious playing career - have not gone smoothly. Indeed, his close association with the much-criticised, ponderous possession-based style of Van Gaal probably damaged his hopes of succeeding the Dutchman as manager.
But as he moves on in hope of furthering his coaching career elsewhere, the Welshman does so as nothing less than a hero at United.
He was a local boy who not only fulfilled his youthful potential but achieved so much more. He always seemed destined for greatness after bursting onto the scene in exhilarating fashion as a 17-year-old but he went on to become the most decorated player in the English game.
Ryan Wilson was born in Cardiff but moved to Salford at the age of seven when his father, Danny Wilson, headed north to play professional rugby league. He adopted his mother's maiden name, Giggs, after his parents split up.
He endured a difficult childhood but excelled on the football field. He caught the eye of Manchester City but United nipped in to sign him on his 14th birthday in November 1987. Ferguson was impressed by his pace and mesmerising dribbling ability and thrust him into the first team at just 17.
His impact was immediate and he rarely looked back. He was quickly dubbed the 'new George Best' but took that in his stride, although Ferguson shielded him from the media in an attempt to keep his feet on the ground.
He won his first silverware as a member of the side that beat Nottingham Forest in the 1992 League Cup final but, perhaps as significantly, he was also in the United team that won the FA Youth Cup that year. The core of that side - the famed 'Class of 92' of Giggs, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt - went on to provide the nucleus of the first team that swept all before them under Ferguson.
There were different phases to Giggs' career as over the years he successfully adapted his game around the natural ageing process. As time went on he became less of a flying winger with a knack of scoring spectacular goals and more of an intuitive midfielder but, such were his high levels of fitness, his influence waned little.
When he finally hung up his boots at the age of 40 in 2014 he had made 963 appearances for United and won 34 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues, and scored 168 goals. On the international front he earned 64 caps for Wales between 1991 and 2007 but never played in a major tournament.
By the time of his retirement he had already moved into coaching, having worked as player-coach under David Moyes. He even got a brief taste of life in the hotseat by serving as caretaker boss for four games following the sacking of Moyes in April 2014.
Going on to work as assistant under Van Gaal seemed a logical step for both him and the club but it proved a difficult two years as United fell well short of challenging for the Premier League title.
The club are now heading in a different direction under Jose Mourinho and, for the first time in almost 30 years, Giggs will not be a part of it.