Ryan Giggs: Manchester United legend considering future at the club
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 turned 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 manager Jose Mourinho expected to be appointed manager this week, United have told Giggs they want him to stay. However, the role intended for him has not been outlined.
The 42-year-old is still on the three-year contract as assistant manager he signed when Van Gaal took over. The job as assistant to Mourinho is unlikely to be available because Rui Faria, who has been with the Portuguese throughout his professional career, is almost certain to be installed at Old Trafford as well.
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-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 Moyes, then, following his retirement, as assistant manager to Van Gaal.
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 Steve Holland in the role when he returned in 2014.
In theory, it makes Giggs next in line. But he was not 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 manager's 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 league titles and two Champions Leagues.
Any decision to leave would be a massive wrench. But he feels he is qualified to become United's boss now.
If he believes he will never become United manager, then Giggs might as well look for alternative employment.
He has passed his Uefa pro-licence coaching qualifications and would not be short of offers.
Giggs' future is of huge importance to Manchester United.
Together with Butt, Giggs represents the most obvious link to United's recent past, and the commitment to longevity and exciting football the club have felt sets them apart from their major rivals.
The club want him to stay and Giggs wants to remain.
Giggs is known to be less than impressed at how the news of Van Gaal's exit was dealt with by United. With his contract as assistant manager still in existence, being offered a bit-part in the new set-up is unlikely to alter a negative perception of the present situation.
An obvious way to appease the Welshman would be for United to make a public statement about him, making it clear this was the last part of his managerial apprenticeship and there is a long-term plan for him to eventually become boss. After all, a senior figure in the club's hierarchy said before Christmas that Giggs "triple ticked" some of the essential components required for the role.
Is it hardly likely, though. As the difficult three years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired has shown, without success, none of United's previous traditions appear so important.
Mourinho has never shown the greatest commitment to youth, nor has he ever been regarded as a long-term manager. What he has done is win. After three years without even competing for the Premier League, it is obvious what United's priority now is.
But getting rid of Giggs would be a PR disaster given what he has done for United, both as a player and - commercially - a product.
For now, it is probably for the best that Giggs has gone away on a short break, which will allow him time to clear his head.
For both his and United's sake, it can only be hoped that by the time he returns, some kind of solution can be found that is mutually acceptable.
- Turned professional with Manchester United on his 17th birthday in November, 1990
- First senior trophy in November 1991 as United beat Red Star Belgrade in the European Super Cup final
- PFA Young Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993
- Giggs and United won the inaugural Premier League title in 1992-93
- Double winner in 1993-94 and 1995-96, treble winner in 1999
- PFA Player of the Year award in April 2009
- BBC Sports Personality of the Year in November 2009, aged 36
- 34 trophies won as a player, including 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues - the most decorated player in English football history