After almost 30 years at Manchester United as man and boy, club legend Ryan Giggs is weighing up whether to leave Old Trafford following the sacking of manager Louis van Gaal.
The former winger holds the record for most appearances for United – 963 – having joined the academy on his 14th birthday and turning professional aged 17 in November 1990.
But after two seasons as van Gaal’s assistant – which followed a year as player-coach under previous boss David Moyes and a brief spell as caretaker manager when the Scot was sacked – Giggs is at a crossroads.
With former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho expected to be appointed manager this week, United have made Giggs an offer to stay – but it is unclear in what capacity and if the 42-year-old will accept.
Wales manager and former international team-mate Chris Coleman believes a move away from the club he made his debut for in March 1991 would benefit his long-term managerial ambitions.
But former club team-mate Peter Schmeichel told BBC Radio 5 live that Giggs could play a “very important” role under Mourinho.
BBC Sport’s Simon Stone examines the three options.
1. Stay at Manchester United in a coaching role
Giggs has already spent three years furthering his education, initially as a player-coach under David Moyes, then, following his retirement, as assistant manager to Louis van Gaal.
Jose Mourinho does tend to have one man in his backroom team with specific knowledge of the club concerned.
He moved Steve Clarke up from Chelsea’s academy to become his assistant in his first stint at Stamford Bridge and retained Matt Holland in the role when he returned in 2014.
In theory, it makes Giggs next in line. But he wasn’t appointed on a permanent basis after David Moyes was sacked, despite taking temporary charge for the final four games in 2014, and now he has been overlooked again.
2. Stay at United in a different role
Nurturing the ‘Class of 2020’ has been mentioned as a possible alternative for Giggs should he wish to remain at Old Trafford but not work so closely with Mourinho.
An academy role has been ruled out as Giggs’ ‘Class of 92’ colleague Nicky Butt is in that job. So it could mean United’s Under-21 team.
Warren Joyce has been in that job since 2008, when he worked alongside Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer. Joyce has been linked with the vacant managers’ job at Blackburn, so there could be an opening.
And it would be the nearest United have to a similar position Zinedine Zidane found himself in when he was appointed Real Madrid’s reserve team boss prior to being given the top job following Rafael Benitez’s dismissal on 4 January.
Yet Under-21 football is a pale imitation of the Spanish league second division, where Zidane spent 18 months in charge of Real Madrid Castilla. Would it really be a proving ground for Giggs to step into the main job at some undefined point in the future?
Giggs has been at United since he was 14.
He played first-team football for 23 years, winning a record 13 titles and two Champions Leagues, and making a club-record 963 appearances.
Any decision to leave would be a massive wrench.
But, he feels he is qualified to become United’s boss now and has been looked over, as he was when Louis van Gaal came in following Giggs’ four-match tenure as interim boss following David Moyes’ dismissal in 2014.
If he believes the call will never come, Giggs might as well look for alternative employment.
He has passed his Uefa pro-licence coaching qualifications and would not be short of offers. Former team-mates such as Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce have enjoyed success and longevity, with brief success for others such as Paul Ince and Roy Keane, whereas more recent examples have faired badly outside the confines of Old Trafford, such as Gary Neville.
- Giggs was offered his first professional contract with Manchester United on his 17th birthday on 29 November, 1990.
- Ryan Giggs made a record 963 appearances for Manchester United, ahead of Sir Bobby Charlton on 758.
- He scored 168 goals for the Reds, seventh on the all-time list.
- Giggs made 632 Premier League appearances in 22 years.
- He turned professional in November 1990 and made his league debut in the old Division One against Everton on 2 March 1991 as a substitute for Denis Irwin.
- Scored his first league goal in his first league start in 1990-91 in a 1-0 win over Manchester City.
- Giggs’ first senior trophy arrived in November 1991 as United beat Red Star Belgrade in the European Super Cup final.
- In the following April, he picked up his second winners’ medal as the Reds beat Nottingham Forest in the League Cup final and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year by his peers – an accolade he retained 12 months later.
- 1993 was also the year when Giggs and United won the inaugural Premier League title.
- Giggs was an integral part of two Double-winning sides, in 1993-94 and 1995-96, before going one better in 1998-99 by adding the European Cup to the FA Cup and Premier League trophy.
- His contributions to the Treble-winning campaign included a superb solo goal to win the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park, commonly regarded as one of United’s greatest ever goals.
- PFA Player of the Year award in April 2009, 18 years after first winning the junior equivalent.
- 2009-10 He was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year – on 30 November, the day after his 36th birthday
- 34 – In Giggs’ time at Manchester United, he has won 34 trophies (13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, one European Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one Fifa Club World Cup and nine Charity/Community Shields), making him the most decorated player in English football history.