Giggs ends playing days at Manchester United

Posted at 05/19/2014 11:44 PM | Updated as of 05/19/2014 11:57 PM

MANCHESTER (UPDATED) -  Ryan Giggs has called time on his remarkable 23-year, trophy-laden Manchester United career to commit himself to his new role as assistant to manager Louis van Gaal, who was confirmed as the successor to David Moyes on Monday.

Giggs, who made a record 963 appearances, winning 13 league titles, four FA Cups and two Champions League trophies, announced his decision on Monday via an open letter on the club's website.

"I would like to take this opportunity to announce my retirement from professional football and embark upon a new and exciting chapter in my life," 40-year-old Giggs said.

"I am immensely proud, honoured and fortunate to have represented the biggest club in the world 963 times and Wales 64 times.

"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 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 have always felt and appreciated your support. I would not have won 34 trophies in my career without you."

Giggs made his United debut in 1991 and remained an integral part of the club under Ferguson as they established themselves as the dominant force in English soccer.

Initially a wiry, close-dribbling winger, his midfield combinations with the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Roy Keane were at the heart of much of the team's success.

His amazing superb solo goal in the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal in 1999 - en route to United securing the treble of league, FA Cup and Champions League - has been voted the club's greatest goal by a poll of fans.

Giggs' international career was not so successful as he performed in a Wales team which failed to make a major championship - despite some near misses - while his relationship with Wales fans was strained by his regular withdrawals with minor injuries that would miraculously disappear in time for him to resume United action days later.

OLYMPIC HONOR

He retired from international football in 2008 though did, however, enjoy a swansong of sorts when he captained the British football team at the 2012 London Olympics.

As he aged, Giggs developed into more of a soccer quarter-back, less mobile but able to spread passes with deadly precision while giving a masterclass in keeping possession.

Ferguson routinely paid tribute to Giggs' committed approach to fitness and "fuelling", and how they helped him continue to operate at the very top level at an age when most of his contemporaries had long retired.

With the departure of Ferguson at the end of last season, Giggs became a peripheral figure under Moyes but was thrust back on to centre stage as player-manager for the last four games of the season after the Scot was sacked.

He selected himself for only one of them - a substitute appearance in the 3-1 victory over Hull City at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season.

"For me, today is new chapter filled with many emotions - immense pride, sadness, but most of all, excitement towards the future," Giggs said on Monday.

"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, and I hope to be there every step of the way."

KEY FACTS:

Made a total of 963 appearances with Manchester United from 1991-2014 becoming only the second player, after Bobby Charlton, to break the 700 mark. He scored 168 goals.

Made a Premier League record 632 appearances between 1992 and 2014, scoring 109 goals.

His Manchester United honours add up to 34 trophies including 13 league titles, four FA Cups and two Champions League triumphs. This haul makes him the most decorated player in the English game.

EARLY LIFE:

Born in Cardiff in November 1973 as Ryan Joseph Wilson, he became Giggs after his parents separated. Giggs moved to England from Wales as a boy and joined Dean's Youth FC.

MANCHESTER UNITED:

Giggs joined United in July 1990.

He turned professional in November 1990 and made his League debut in the old Division One against Everton at Old Trafford in March 1991 as a substitute for Denis Irwin, aged 17.

His first trophy arrived in April 1992 as United beat Nottingham Forest in the League Cup final, and the following season saw Giggs claim the first of a record 13 Premiership winners' medals.

At the end of his first full season, he was voted the Young Player of the Year by the PFA and won it again the following year.

In 1999 he scored a superb solo goal in the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal - voted by fans as United's greatest goal.

GIGGS AS INTERNATIONAL PLAYER:

Giggs won 64 caps, scoring 12 goals. He won his first cap at the age of 17 and became Wales's youngest international, when he came on as a substitute against West Germany.

Giggs has spent his entire international career as part of a team who have consistently failed to qualify for a major tournament. Their last appearance was the 1958 World Cup.

MORE KEY FACTS:

Bagged his 100th career goal in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2002-03 season.

Took role as interim manager of the club for the final four Premier League games of 2013-14, his last season as a player.

Last appearance was when he sent himself on as a substitute for 20 minutes in 3-1 win over Hull City, May 6 2014.

He scored in every one of his 22 Premier League seasons, failing to find the net only in his final term, 2013-14.

All of his 632 Premier League appearances came with one club, Manchester United - another record.

Received OBE for services to football in 2007.

He captained the British men's soccer team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.