Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has announced that he will retire from football at the end of this season.
The 40-year-old, who joined United from Fulham in 2005, has taken the decision despite starting 21 of the club's 23 league matches this term.
"It is now time to pay attention to my family,'' said Van der Sar, who has been contemplating hanging up his boots since his wife Annemarie collapsed with a brain haemorrhage in December 2009.
"I cannot really identify a time when it [the decision] happened,'' said the former Ajax goalkeeper. "Let's just say that it was playing on my mind from the moment Annemarie had her stroke.
"She has fought back from it. We decided on another year in England and thus to stay at Manchester United. But, once engaged in the season, the thought of saying goodbye started to gnaw a bit more emphatically.''
He told sport-promotion.nl: "One minute you're out. The next, you question it again. I thought about stopping, maybe a year ago. It is a difficult process. After a defeat, I thought differently than after playing a few good games in a row.
"My age played no role. I am 40 years old, but I still feel fit. And then the decision came suddenly. Do not ask me how or why, but suddenly you know. That was sufficient."
Van der Sar is poised to turn down the offer of a coaching role with the Red Devils, preferring instead to take a break from the game. "I will hopefully not start coaching too quickly," he said.
"I will try to have 18 months or two years for myself - and I've a family to do nice things with, too."
The Netherlands international has won three Premier League titles at United, as well as one Champions League and one League Cup.
United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele believes Van der Sar will go down alongside former Red Devil Peter Schmeichel as one of the club's greats following his decisive penalty save from Nicolas Anelka in the Champions League final shootout against Chelsea in May 2008.
Steele told Radio Manchester: "Edwin will retire at the end of the season. It has been a mutual decision between the manager, the team and Edwin.
"He has been a fantastic servant. I was very lucky. I worked alongside Peter Schmeichel at Villa and I worked with Edwin for two and a half years. That penalty save in Moscow has elevated Edwin alongside Peter."
He added: "We are naturally looking at potential suitors ready for the summer when Edwin does decide to say goodbye to us all. Anders has come in to freshen up our goalkeeping department. We never replaced Ben Foster in the summer.
"Edwin is going to be a very difficult man to replace. Anders will have five months working under the master, and Tomasz has been admirable every time he has gone in for us.
"We also have Ben Amos who is 20 and the manager thinks a lot of him. We have sent him out on loan to Oldham and he has done a terrific job so far, but he is still young and goalkeepers do develop later and do mature later.
"Come the end of the season the whole thing will be totally re-assessed by the manager. We either do it internally, and we have looked at the best targets, and we have a nice one, two and three."
Van der Sar started his career with Ajax in 1990 and enjoyed nearly a decade of success in Amsterdam. He picked up four Eredivisie titles and three Dutch cups on the domestic front and savoured European success with a UEFA Cup win in 1992 and Champions League glory three years later.
Two years at Juventus followed before a switch to Fulham in 2001. He soon established himself as one of the most reliable keepers in England and attracted the attention of United in 2005.
Van der Sar was charged with the task of filling the boots of Schmeichel, who left Old Trafford in 1999 after a wonderful spell at the club which ended with a Champions League victory.
Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Raimond van der Gouw, Fabien Barthez, Roy Carroll and Ricardo had all tried and failed to command the United defence in the same manner as Schmeichel before Van der Sar arrived between the posts.
Van der Sar retired from international football after Euro 2008 and, although he briefly returned to help out Oranje coach Bert van Marwijk in two 2010 World Cup qualifiers a few months later, he hung up his gloves for good after that with a national record 130 caps to his name.