Ryan Giggs credited his success to working hard and urged graduands to keep doing the same as he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bolton on Friday.
Giggs, the most decorated player in English football history, won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during his 24-year professional playing career, which was spent entirely with Manchester United and ended with his retirement this summer.
And speaking as he picked up his latest accolade, the 40-year-old - now United's assistant manager - said to the assembled audience also donning gowns at Bolton's Victoria Hall: "I'd like to congratulate all you graduands for your achievements.
"I was lucky enough to be blessed with a little bit of football talent, but what got me through over 20 years playing for Manchester United was hard work.
"So if I was going to give you one bit of advice, it would be - whatever field, whatever occupation you go into - that that is the main thing; work hard. And of course, try to enjoy it."
The former Wales and Great Britain midfielder added: "I would like to say just how proud I am to receive this.
"As a football player you start out to win football matches, trophies and medals.
"But you never think in your wildest dreams that you are going to be stood up here, wearing this cap and being honoured by a university."
Giggs, who was named honorary doctor of science for outstanding contribution to sport, admitted his mind was still on United's preparations for the 2014/15 season, when he will be working alongside incoming Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal.
"Now I've retired and I'm going fully into the coaching, it's time to try to develop that," Giggs said.
"I'm still thinking about pre-season training right now! But obviously this is a special day and one that I can enjoy."