Manchester United FC are still getting used to not having Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline but they will begin next term without another fixture: for the first time in a quarter of a century Ryan Giggs will not be in the first-team squad.
Giggs called time on his remarkable playing career on Monday, over 23 years since he made his debut as a 17-year-old substitute in England's old First Division against Everton FC. The former Wales international became one of the most feared left-wingers in the game, moving into the middle as advancing years decreased his pace. But never his hunger.
Indeed, while Giggs will not play at Old Trafford next season he will still be there, as Louis van Gaal's assistant manager. Before that, in recognition of this remarkable longevity, UEFA.com selects some of Giggs's most significant milestones and celebrated moments of a stellar career which has yielded 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two UEFA Champions League crowns, two English League Cups and a UEFA Super Cup.
6 May 2014: Premier League: United 3-1 Hull City AFC
His final season did not exactly go to plan, but Giggs realised another dream as he led the team out for the final four games as interim manager after Sir Alex Ferguson's replacement David Moyes made an early exit. This was United's last home match and the 40-year-old duly brought himself on for his 963rd appearance with just over 20 minutes left. His final acts included a shot, a burst down the left wing he graced for so much of his time at Old Trafford, and a silky reverse pass for Robin van Persie's late goal that sealed victory.
5 March 2013, UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg: United 1-2 Real Madrid CF
Having been left out of the squad three days earlier for the Premier League fixture at home to Norwich City FC, Giggs brought up the 1,000-appearance mark against the nine-time European Cup winners. His 134th UEFA Champions League outing ended in defeat as the visitors, trailing to Sergio Ramos's own goal, hit back through Luka Modrić and former United favourite Cristiano Ronaldo.
10 February 2013, Premier League: United 2-0 Everton FC
Giggs scored in each of the first 21 Premier League seasons, failing to find the net for the first time in 2013/14. His first goal of the previous campaign, an assured right-footed finish off the upright, set United en route to an important home win. Like buses, Giggs did not have to wait long for another one, sealing a 2-0 victory at Queens Park Rangers FC two weeks later as Sir Alex's table toppers temporarily stretched their lead to 15 points.
14 September 2011, UEFA Champions League group stage: SL Benfica 1-1 United
Giggs registered the Red Devils' first goal of what was ultimately a disappointing 2011/12 European campaign and, in so doing, set a record which stands to this day – aged 37 years and 290 days, he is the oldest player to score in the UEFA Champions League. With the visitors trailing to an Óscar Cardozo strike, Giggs burst onto a pass from Antonio Valencia and unleashed an unstoppable effort high to Artur's left.
January 2011: voted United's greatest player of all time
That the former Wales player topped a poll of supporters in the club magazine and on their official website ahead of such United luminaries as Eric Cantona, George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton – to name but a few – says everything about Giggs's standing at Old Trafford. "When I got told I genuinely couldn't believe it," said Giggs on learning of the accolade. "There have been so many great players here."
21 May 2008, UEFA Champions League final: United v Chelsea FC – breaking Sir Bobby's club record of 758 appearances
Giggs cemented his status as an all-time United great when he replaced another Old Trafford stalwart, Paul Scholes, in the 87th minute of European club football's biggest match. With the score 1-1 after extra time, the match went to penalties, where Giggs calmly struck what proved to be the decisive spot kick before Nicolas Anelka's effort was saved by Edwin van der Sar.
11 May 2008, Premier League: Wigan Athletic FC v United
If not his most eye-catching goal, it makes the cut due to its significance on an afternoon when the title's destination was in the balance. Level on points with Chelsea at kick-off on the final day of term, United knew victory would assure them of their tenth Premier League crown and 17th English championship overall. After Cristiano Ronaldo had eased nerves with a penalty, Wayne Rooney's defence-splitting pass provided Giggs with a simple finish and the crowning moment of United's domestic season; for Giggs, greater acclaim would arrive in Moscow ten days later.
25 February 2003, UEFA Champions League second group stage: Juventus v United
While some may argue that his thunderous strike against the same team six years earlier is just as worthy of inclusion, Giggs's display at the Stadio Delle Alpi gets the nod because of his overall impact on United's 3-0 win. Having already scored one, Giggs launched himself on a run not dissimilar to that mentioned below. Faced with Ciro Ferrara and Paolo Montero, he darted inside – taking both out of the game in the process – before sliding a shot across Gianluigi Buffon into the far corner.
14 April 1999, FA Cup semi-final replay: United v Arsenal FC
United's famed treble of 1998/99, and what is widely regarded as the best goal of Giggs's illustrious career, would never have happened had Peter Schmeichel not repelled Dennis Bergkamp's 92nd-minute penalty. Now in extra time as a result, with the score 1-1, Giggs collected Patrick Vieira's misplaced pass and embarked on a mazy run towards goal. With the France midfielder closing fast, Giggs danced beyond Vieira and in between Lee Dixon and Martin Keown before rifling left-footed into the roof of David Seaman's net.
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