Phil Neville believes that Ryan Giggs's recent retirement was hastened by his new role at Manchester United, after admitting he was surprised to hear that the club legend had called time on his Old Trafford playing career.
The Welsh veteran - who had previously been in interim charge of the Red Devils first-team following the sacking of David Moyes in April - brought the curtain down his playing career on Monday, soon after it was announced that the 40-year-old would be appointed as No.2 to new manager Louis van Gaal, who will take the reins after the World Cup in Brazil this summer.
Speaking at Wentworth during the celebrity Pro-Am ahead of the BMW PGA Championship on Wednesday, Neville paid a glowing tribute to Giggs, who made a record total of 963 senior appearances for Manchester United on his way to becoming the most decorated footballer in British football.
"I was really surprised when he retired because he was still so fit and still contributed so much," Neville told GiveMeSport. "I think the new role hastened his retirement but in terms of fitness and performance he was still up there.
"He was still the driving force in training and the one that set the example. He's got unbelievable drive and determination and he's not lost that.
"That's probably the biggest attribute you can say that over a period of time he never lost that drive to do well and drive and hunger to sacrifice to perform and prepare as a top class professional footballer."
Neville heaped praise on his former team-mate, friend and coaching colleague, suggesting that Giggs should be remembered as one of the greatest players Manchester United have ever had.
With 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cup, three League Cup and two Champions League winners medals to his name, there's no denying that the former midfielder has enjoyed an illustrious career, and bows out at the top of the game, where he has belonged for the past 23 years since making his debut under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1991.
"We've had some great players who've played for Man United but he's probably up there with the greatest," added Neville, who was playing in a four ball with fellow Red Devils legends Peter Schmeichel and Teddy Sheringham, alongside avid Manchester United fan Rory McIlroy.
"The [George] Bests the [Dennis] Laws the [Bobby] Charltons the Bryan Robsons because of his longevity and the amount of medals that he's won.
"He's the most decorated player ever to play for the club. And for someone to play for Man United for so long - and even at the end when he gets to 40 years of age - you still think he can go on forever."