MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United broke with 136 years of tradition to welcome Louis van Gaal as its new manager and saw midfield great Ryan Giggs end his storied playing career to take up a coaching role on another tumultuous day at England's biggest club.
Exactly a year after waving goodbye to Alex Ferguson and his 26 seasons of steady success, the most turbulent 12 months of United's recent history ended with the club's hierarchy, new coaching staff and fans expressing confidence that the good times are about to return.
In a widely anticipated move, Van Gaal was handed the sizeable task of restoring the team's fortunes following the woeful, 10-month reign of David Moyes, signing a three-year deal that will begin once he finishes his duties with the Netherlands national team at the upcoming World Cup.
The 62-year-old Dutchman, who will be United's first manager from outside Britain or Ireland, has the experience of coaching — and winning titles — at top European teams Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. He will be viewed as a much safer bet than Moyes, who proved to be too inexperienced at the highest level.
"This club has big ambitions; I too have big ambitions," Van Gaal said, proclaiming United as the "biggest club" in soccer. "Together I'm sure we will make history."
Assisting Van Gaal will be Giggs, who brought to a close his 23-year career on the same day that he became a full-time coach at the club in which he became one of Britain's greatest players.
After 13 league titles, two Champions Leagues, a club-record 963 appearances and 168 goals, Giggs is swapping his cleats for a suit at Old Trafford.
"For me, today is new chapter filled with many emotions — immense pride, sadness, but most of all, excitement towards the future," Giggs said in an open letter, in which he also praised the abilities of Van Gaal.
"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."
United, with its record 20 English league titles and three European Cup trophies, hasn't been in such a state of flux for a generation.
It all started with the retirement of Ferguson last May, along with the disappearance of the final remnants of the "Class of 92" generation that was so instrumental in those glory days under the Scot.
David Beckham, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt have all ended their playing careers and now Giggs has done the same. United just won't be the same.
For Van Gaal and Giggs to form any kind of dream team they need to click immediately, with United scarcely contemplating another season like the one just finished.
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