Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (71) is to retire at the end of the season. United confirmed the news on their website yesterday. “The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly,” said Ferguson. “It is the right time.”
Ferguson’s last game in charge will be at West Brom on May 19 and he will join the club’s football board. “It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so,” he said.
“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.”
Ferguson has had a career the like of which will never be seen again. He won his 49th trophy in 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, that will be followed by a trophy presentation, will be his last home game in charge.
He leaves behind a club in good shape. “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,” said Ferguson.
“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.
‘Thank you all’
“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.” Although there have been times — in 1989 when it seemed he was going to be sacked, and 2002, when he was about to retire and instead performed a last-minute U-turn — when it was felt Ferguson was ready to leave, this time it is permanent.
The speculation intensified on Tuesday and United’s failure to respond to questioning about the matter further fuelled the rumours overnight. Now, Ferguson is left to look back on the power-shift in English football that he has instigated.
“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,” said Ferguson.
“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.” Now, for the first time in over a quarter of a century, United are on the hunt for a new manager.
Managers who could succeed Ferguson...
David Moyes: 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. He has emerged as a front-runner for the post.
Jose Mourinho: 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.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: A host of former United players have been linked with the job in the past yet all have fallen by the wayside.
Jurgen Klopp: The Borussia Dortmund boss has made a big impression during his club’s impressive run to the Champions League final.
Laurent Blanc: Blanc had a brief stint with the Red Devils at the end of his career, so knows the club well.