MANCHESTER, England (AP) — A banner draped over one of the giant stands at Old Trafford reads: "Giggs — Tearing You Apart Since 1991."
His face is ubiquitous on merchandise sold in the club store at Old Trafford and by the scarf-sellers just outside. He part-owns a soccer-themed hotel in the shadow of the iconic stadium.
Ryan Giggs is part of the furniture at Manchester United, and for good reason. He joined the club in 1987 as a 14-year-old and played a record 963 times for the first team. To many, he is Mr. Manchester United.
But for how much longer?
Jose Mourinho's imminent appointment as United manager is set to usher in one of the most exciting eras in its history. But it could also be one of the saddest, potentially spelling the end — albeit maybe briefly — of Giggs' near-29-year association with England's most prestigious team.
Since ending his one-club playing career in 2014, Giggs has been assistant coach to Louis van Gaal at United and supposedly was being groomed as its next manager. However, Mourinho is likely to bring his long-time No. 2, Rui Faria, as assistant at United and British media are reporting that Giggs will be offered another role.
Giggs, now 42, has a decision to make: Stay on at Old Trafford, this time further down the ranks of the backroom staff or off the radar maybe in charge of the under-21 side; or fly solo at another club.
Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel urged Giggs to take the latter option.
"His dream is one day to manage Manchester United," Schmeichel told Sky Sports. "And I think to be equipped for that, he has to go away. He has to manage other clubs, standing on his own two feet, making decisions, producing results, getting his own ideas in. For him, it would be a good idea to go somewhere else."
Continuing his coaching apprenticeship at another club — Everton, for example, has a managerial vacancy, while a clutch of lower-league clubs would surely be desperate for a coach of Giggs' stature — is a gamble. Fail, and United may think twice about going down the Giggs route in the future. He would also be out of the loop at Old Trafford.
And there's no guarantee he'll be a success in management, either. Sure, he is British soccer's most decorated player — the winner of 13 Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues, four FA Cups, three League Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and a Club World Cup — and he's had the experience of managing United for four games at the end of the 2013-14 season, on a temporary basis after David Moyes' departure.
But great players don't necessarily make great managers. Bobby Charlton and Roy Keane enjoy legendary status at United but are among those who never quite took to being managers.
Learning his trade elsewhere would be a massive culture shock for Giggs, who has walked out — as a player or a coach — in front of more than 75,000 most weeks for in recent years. Even if starting out as a manager away from the full glare of one of the world's top leagues could be beneficial.
"It's all down to personal preference, isn't it?" said Paul Scholes, Giggs' friend and long-time teammate at United. "If he wants to go away and manage, I'm sure he'll be very good at it.
"But I think it will be sad if he left the club, if he went away. He's been there 20-odd years, he knows the place inside out, knows how the club works, what kind of football is expected. I think it'll be a real disappointment if he did leave."
If Giggs stays, he would again be touted as the next in line to be manager — just like he was when Van Gaal was hired. But how long will Mourinho stick around for? If the Portuguese coach is a success, it could be for longer than his reported initial three-year deal. And where would that leave Giggs?
There is talk of the Welshman being offered the chance to coach United's under-21 team but it might not be enough to satisfy him.