Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson today announced that he will retire from the club at the end of the season after 27 years in charge.

The 71-year-old clinched his 13th Premier League title with the club last month, but that will be his last hurrah as manager of the Old Trafford club.

Speculation had been rife that the fiery Scotsman would end his long tenure at the club, but Manchester United chiefs had refused to comment.

Sir Alex said in a statement that it was important to him to leave the club in the ‘strongest possible shape.’

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Retiring: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has announced that he will step down after 27 years in charge of the club and 13 Premier League title wins

 

 
 

Cheerful: Ferguson in the Ibrox directors’ box at the Rangers v Man United legends match this week

 

 
 
 
 
 

Success: Sir Alex pops a cork after winning the Premier League title last month, left, and is seen decked out in United colours after he was unveiled as their new manager in 1986

 

 
 

 

SIR ALEX’S STATEMENT IN FULL

‘The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time.

‘It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so.

‘The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.

‘Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world.

‘Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.

‘I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential.

‘My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.

‘As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs.

‘Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich.

‘In my early years, the backing of the board, and Sir Bobby Charlton in particular, gave me the confidence and time to build a football club, rather than just a football team.

‘Over the past decade, the Glazer family have provided me with the platform to manage Manchester United to the best of my ability and I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a talented and trustworthy Chief Executive in David Gill. I am truly grateful to all of them.

‘To the fans, thank you. The support you have provided over the years has been truly humbling. It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to lead your club and I have treasured my time as manager of Manchester United.’

He said: ‘The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time.

‘It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so.

‘The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.’

Sir Alex will remain part of the set up at Old Trafford despite stepping back from on the field matters.

He will take up a role as director and ambassador for the club when he retires after Manchester United’s game with West Brom on May 18 – his 1,500th game in charge.

 

He said: ‘Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.’

He paid tribute to the support of his friends, colleagues and family throughout his career, in particular his wife Cathy.

He said: ‘I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential.

‘My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.

‘As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs.’

Ferguson has had a career the like of which will never be seen again.

He won his 49th trophy by winning United’s 20th league championship and seemed set to extend his career into next season, confirming as much in his programme notes ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Chelsea.

Instead, with a hip operation booked in for August, this weekend’s Old Trafford encounter with Swansea, followed by a trophy presentation, will be his last home game in charge.

Manchester united Chief Executive David Gill described his time working with the manager as the ‘greatest experience’ of his working life.

He said that the club have been planning for Sir Alex’s retirement on and off the pitch.

He said: ‘I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of working very closely with Alex for 16 unforgettable years – through the treble, the double, countless trophy wins and numerous signings.

‘We knew that his retirement would come one day and we both have been planning for it by ensuring the quality of the squad and club structures are in first-class condition.

‘Alex’s vision, energy and ability have built teams – both on and off the pitch – that his successor can count on as among the best and most loyal in world sport.’

 

Where it all began: Sir Alex is unveiled as Manchester United manager by former Chairman Martin Edwards back in 1986

 

Early days: Manchester United’s new manager Alex Ferguson watches from the dug out as his side play Oxford United, in his first game in charge of the club. United lost 2-0

 

 

First European trophy: Sir Alex holding the European Cup Winners Cup and former manager Sir Matt Busby holding the European Cup at Old Trafford, after United won the trophy in 1991

Joel Glazer, joint chairman of the Manchester United board with brother Avie, pinpointed the 2008 Champions League final penalty shootout success over Chelsea as a highlight among the many memories.

He said: ‘Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is but he’s also a wonderful person.

Tribute: Sir Alex thanked his wife Cathy for her support in a statement announcing his retirement this morning

‘His determination to succeed and dedication to the club have been truly remarkable. I will always cherish the wonderful memories he has given us, like that magical night in Moscow.’

Politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband paid tribute to Sir Alex’s achievements today.

Mr Cameron said on Twitter: ‘Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievement at #MUFC has been exceptional. Hopefully his retirement will make life a little easier for my team #AVFC.’

 

Sir Alex had vowed to carry on ‘indefinitely’ in programme notes written before Sunday’s defeat against Chelsea.

He arrived at the club’s Carrington training ground to take training as normal this morning.

But already speculation is mounting as to who could replace the most successful manager in British football history.

Talks are underway to find a replacement and Everton manager David Moyes is among the frontrunners.

It had been rumoured that Moyes would initially join the club as understudy to Ferguson for a season before taking over the reigns full time.

Moyes remains the favourite to take over with bookmakers offering odds of 4/6 this morning.

Other big names thought to be in the running include Real Madrid manager and former Chelsea favourite Jose Mourinho, who is tipped at 6/5 by bookmakers to get the job.

The self-proclaimed ‘special one’ has been widely tipped to join Chelsea, but could be set to rethink those plans.

He is likely to be available at the end of the season.

Long-serving Manchester United star Ryan Giggs has also been linked with the role as well as Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp.

United’s hand may have been forced in terms of making an announcement by strict New york Stock Exchange rules.

With the club floated on the market, any information which significantly affects the running of the club must be announced.

 

Hairdryer treatment: David Beckham felt the wrath of Sir Alex back in February 2003 when he was hit on the head by a stray boot kicked by the fiery Scotsman

FERGIE’S FABULOUS 49

Sir Alex Ferguson has won 49 trophies in the most successful managerial career Britain has ever known.

ST MIRREN
Scottish First Division (1): 1976-77.

ABERDEEN
Scottish Premier Division (3): 1979-80, 1983-84, 1984-85.

Scottish Cup (4): 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86.

Scottish League Cup (1): 1985-86.

European Cup Winners’ Cup (1): 1982-83.

European Super Cup (1): 1983.

MANCHESTER UNITED
Premier League (13): 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2012-13.

FA Cup (5): 1989-90, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1998-99, 2003-04.

League Cup (4): 1991-92, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2009-10.

Charity/Community Shield (10): 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011.

Champions League (2): 1998-99, 2007-08.

European Cup Winners’ Cup (1): 1990-91.

European Super Cup (1): 1991.

Intercontinental Cup (1): 1999.

FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2008.

Officials at Old Trafford had put up a wall of silence before this morning’s announcement, despite heavy speculation.

The club were not even taking calls from journalists last night amid a frenzy of speculation over their manager’s future.

Similarly the club will have to announce Sir Alex’s successor to the market as soon as he is appointed.

Sources say that there is expected to be ‘an announcement within days.’

Ferguson is expected at Chester Races today for a planned day out with some of United’s players.

Rumours began to circulate on Tuesday among United’s players and coaching staff, who were involved in a golf match at Dunham Forest in Cheshire.

The Scotsman became famed throughout his career for his infamous ‘hairdryer treatment’ dished out to players and his fiery temperament.

One of the most infamous examples of star players feeling Ferguson’s wrath came in February 2003 when the manager kick a boot in the changing room which hit David Beckham on the forehead.

Beckham wore the wounds from the incident in a very public fallout and left the club months later.

Moyes was at Goodison Park on Tuesday night to watch Everton defeat Newcastle in the Under 21s Premier League.

The 50-year-old Scot is out of contract this summer but has refused to discuss his future publicly, insisting only that he would weigh up his options at the end of the season.

United’s final match of the season, at West Bromwich Albion on May 19, will be the 1,500th of Ferguson’s tenure as manager.

Having always cited his health as the primary factor in any decision to retire, the club’s confirmation last Friday evening that Ferguson, who had a heart pacemaker fitted in 2004, would undergo hip surgery in August raised fresh doubt over his determination to continue in the post.

The developments came on the back of fevered and persistent betting this week that British football’s most successful manager may be ready to step aside.

‘FOOTBALL…BLOODY HELL!’ MEMORABLE SIR ALEX FERGUSON QUOTES

Sir Alex Ferguson has been involved in some of the most exciting moments in British football history and has provided the media with some of the most memorable quotes. Here are a selection of the very best.

‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Football. Bloody hell.’
After winning the Champions League final against Bayern Munich on May 26, 1999.

‘It’s getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it.’
During the 2002/03 end-of-season title race between Arsenal and United.
Sealed with a kiss: Sir Alex Ferguson toasts Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League success

‘They say he’s an intelligent man, right? Speaks five languages. I’ve got a 15-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages!’ – On Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, 1996.

‘He could start a row in an empty house.’ – On Dennis Wise.

 

Outspoken: Sir Alex has offered the press a number of memorable quotes over the years

‘He was certainly full of it, calling me “Boss” and “Big Man” when we had our post-match drink after the first leg. But it would help if his greetings were accompanied by a decent glass of wine. What he gave me was paint-stripper.’ – On Jose Mourinho.

‘It was a freakish incident. If I tried it 100 or a million times it couldn’t happen again. If I could I would have carried on playing!’
Explaining how he kicked a boot in the United dressing room that hit David Beckham in the face.

‘When an Italian tells me it’s pasta on the plate, I check under the sauce to make sure. They are the inventors of the smokescreen.’
Before playing Inter Milan in the Champions League quarter-final, 1999.

‘My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their ******* perch. And you can print that.’
On Alan Hansen questioning his future in 2002.

 
 
 
 

That’s handy: Everton boss Moyes is leading the betting to replace Ferguson at Old Trafford

Many people inside football — including two Premier League managers — have suggested privately this season that Ferguson would have stepped aside had United not lost last season’s Premier League title race to Manchester City on the last kick of the campaign.

That has never been confirmed by United but it is thought Ferguson broke the news to his wife, Cath, that he had to shelve plans to retire within hours of City snatching the title.

There were also suggestions that Ferguson’s brother Martin may be standing aside from his scouting duties.

 

Of similar significance was the decision by David Gill — Ferguson’s closest ally — to step down as chief executive at the end of this season. But it had emerged United were preparing to make a more seismic announcement.

It is unclear how United’s stock market value will be affected by the announcement but Gill’s announcement to step aside saw a fall.

At the weekend, Ferguson suggested in his programme notes he would be around at Old Trafford next season.

 

Conquering Europe: Fergie lifts the Champions League trophy in Moscow in 2008

 

 

Double top: Fergie, holding a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, with David Beckham at SPOTY in 2001

 
 
 
 

Unlucky for some: Ferguson has got his hands on a the Premier League trophy a remarkable 13 times in all

 

 
 

‘I don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see,’ he said.

‘It’s always difficult in football to be absolutely sure of the future because the game has a habit of tripping you up, but I don’t live in a fantasy world and believe we have every reason to feel confident about the future of Manchester United.

‘My view stems not from the euphoria of winning back the title we lost last season, but on the way we did it and the make-up of our playing personnel.’

 

Glory days: Sir Alex pictured with the Champions League and Premier League trophies

 

 

Finest hour: Manchester United secured a treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in 1999

Already bookmakers seem to be predicting a slight decline in the fortunes of the club on the pitch after Sir Alex retires.

 

Bookmakers have already lengthened odds of the club retaining its Premier League crown next season, with Manchester City now installed as firm favourites.

William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly said: ‘Sir Alex has been the bane of bookmakers for 27 years but his leagcy is such that whether Mourinho or Moyes, or anyone else for that matter, takes the job, they

will still be considered very realistic Premier League challengers.

‘Having said that, no one knows how to build a title winning side like Sir Alex and for that reason we have had no option but to ease the price of the Reds winning the League next season.’

The odds on Sir Alex claiming the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in December have been dramatically slashed following this morning’s news.

He was considered an outsider at 33/1 yesterday, but is now second favourite behind fellow Scot Andy Murray at 6/1.

Betting punters have clearly been swept up in the speculation as to who should take over at Old Trafford with £50,000 staked at Ladbrokes this morning alone.

One gambler laid out £1,000 that Mourinho will succeed Sir Alex as manager.

A spokesman for Ladbrokes said today: We’ve had a bet every second and there’s no sign of it slowing down any time soon.’

WHO WILL REPLACE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MANAGER IN BRITISH HISTORY?

DAVID MOYES (ODDS: 6/4): A persistent contender, who shares Ferguson’s Scottish working-class roots.

Moyes has plenty of admirers at Old Trafford due to the work he has done at Everton and his preference for the passing style United favour.

Speculation has been intense of late that he is in his last season at Goodison Park, but has no real experience at the very highest level.

 

Successor? Everton’s manager David Moyes and Manchester United’s assistant manager Mike Phelan

JOSE MOURINHO (ODDS: 8/11): Many had believed it was all but a done deal that the Real Madrid boss would return to Chelsea at the end of the season.

But the Portuguese, while clearly hinting he is keen to manage in England once again, has never explicitly mentioned his old club.

Despite a lukewarm endorsement from United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, Mourinho is the one man guaranteed not to be overwhelmed by taking on the challenge of following Ferguson.

OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER (ODDS: 20/1): A host of former United players have been linked with the job in the past yet all have fallen by the wayside.

 

Legend: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrating scoring the winning goal for Manchester United during the European Champions League Final against Bayern Munich in 1999 could replace Sir Alex

The latest is Solskjaer, who has made a successful start to his managerial career at Molde. He lacks experience, though, and will benefit from Ferguson remaining at the club as a director.

JURGEN KLOPP (ODDS: 10/1): The Borussia Dortmund boss has made a big impression during his club’s impressive run to the Champions League final.

With a style of football that seems tailor-made for the English football and an at-times eccentric manner in his post-match interviews, he would be an intriguing addition to the Premier League.

LAURENT BLANC: Blanc had a brief stint with the Red Devils at the end of his career, so knows the club well.

Caught the eye as manager of Bordeaux, where he won the French league title, then stabilised a France team that collapsed into chaos at the last World Cup before stepping down following their quarter-final loss to Spain at Euro 2012.

 

FERGIE’S FIVE FINEST SIGNINGS WHO TOOK UNITED TO THE TOP OF EUROPE

 

Top of the stoppers: Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel (signed from Brondby, 1991)

Widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in Premier League history, the Dane’s heroic efforts provided clean sheets aplenty and the security at the back which was so key to United’s success throughout the 1990s. Schmeichel, recruited for around £500,000, knew how to intimidate opposition strikers by making optimum use of his frame and at times appeared just as fearful for his defenders, who would frequently receive a rollicking from him. Capped eight glorious years with the club by skippering United – in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane – in the 1999 Champions League final as Ferguson’s men secured the treble.

Eric Cantona (signed from Leeds, 1992)

Cantona’s five-year spell at United will never be forgotten. The Frenchman, who cost Ferguson just over £1million, gave the club’s fans many a moment to savour on the pitch with his dazzling skills, which helped the Red Devils to a haul of four Premier League titles and two FA Cups. But what perhaps cemented his iconic status was the way he played the part of the tortured genius. The most infamous instance of his short temper was the kung-fu kick he aimed at a Crystal Palace supporter and he made philosophical comments afterwards about seagulls following a trawler. It was somewhat appropriate that he exited early leaving the crowd wanting more, retiring aged 30 in 1997.

Driving force: Roy Keane

Roy Keane (signed from Nottingham Forest, 1993)

The £3.75million Ferguson paid Forest for Keane was a British transfer record at the time, but there is little question that he got value for money. In 12 years of service, the Irish midfielder was United’s engine room and driving force as they dominated English football through the 1990s and into the next decade. He also led them to the 1999 Champions League final, only to miss the game through suspension. Keane succeeded Cantona as captain and was just as combustible a character, if not more so. But it was that edge on the field that so endeared him to United fans and made him the player everyone else wanted in their team.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (signed from Sporting Lisbon, 2003)

Megastar: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ferguson signed a teenage Ronaldo for £12.24million and it looked as if he may have paid over the odds for little more than a showboater in the early days of the Portuguese forward’s United career. He soon showed his game was not just about stepovers, though, developing into one of the world’s most potent players. Ronaldo scored an incredible total of 42 goals for the club in the 2007-08 season as the Red Devils won the Champions League. Although his exit to Real Madrid a year later was a blow, the world record £80million fee he commanded softened it considerably.

Edwin van der Sar (signed from Fulham, 2005)

Van der Sar was 34 when he arrived at Old Trafford for an undisclosed fee, but the Dutch goalkeeper was in no way a fading force. It soon became apparent that Ferguson had finally found the solution in a position which had been a problem for United since Schmeichel’s departure, as Van der Sar’s reliable hands helped the team achieve a new period of success. He broke a multitude of records with his clean sheets in the 2008-09 season and finally retired from football in 2011, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League with the Red Devils.

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