London: Alex Ferguson will retire as Manchester United manager at the end of this season, the English Premier League champions announced on Wednesday, bringing down the curtain on one of the most successful careers football has known.
Ferguson, 71, has been in charge at Old Trafford for 26 years, guiding United to 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns. It was not until Tuesday that rumours of Ferguson’s shock retirement started circulating but he said it was a decision he had been considering for some time.
“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,” Ferguson said in a statement released by the club. “It was important to me to leave an organization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so,” added Ferguson, who will bow out with United having won this season’s Premier League.
“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,” he said.
United gave no indication of a successor amid speculation that Everton’s David Moyes could fill the Old Trafford hot seat vacated by fellow Scotsman Ferguson. Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who established a friendly rivalry with Ferguson when in charge of United’s rivals Chelsea, has also been touted for the role.
David Gill, who forged a highly successful partnership with Ferguson as United’s chief executive which included the unprecedented treble of 1999—the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup—paid tribute to the veteran manager.
“I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of working closely with Alex for 16 unforgettable years—through the treble, the double, countless trophy wins and numerous signings. 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,” Gill said.
United said Ferguson would remain at Old Trafford as a director and club ambassador. His final game in charge will be against West Bromwich Albion on 19 May.
Ferguson is due to have a hip replacement operation when the season ends but until rumours broke on Tuesday, there was no indication that he was about to step down.
The managerial career of the former Glasgow Rangers striker began with Scottish lower league club East Stirlingshire in 1974 and saw him win 49 major trophies in all.
Ferguson forged his managerial reputation in charge of Aberdeen, taking the Dons to a trio of Scottish Premier League titles and the 1983 Uefa Cup’ Winners Cup before joining United in 1986.
In spite of all his subsequent success, Ferguson’s early years in charge of United were frustrating as he sought to end the domestic dominance of arch-rivals Liverpool, and in 1989 it appeared he might even be sacked. But England great Bobby Charlton urged his fellow directors to stick with Ferguson, and their patience was rewarded in 1993 when the club won its first English title in 26 years.
“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,” Ferguson said on Wednesday.
Former United midfielder Paul Ince said he was shocked by the announcement. “He’s done the lot, you will never see anyone of his kind again.”
■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
HOLDING THE FIELD
Ferguson’s track record
Teams: Queen’s Park (1957-60), St Johnstone (1960-64), Dunfermline Athletic (1964-67), Rangers (1967-69), Falkirk (1969-73), Ayr United (1973-74)
Teams: East Stirlingshire (1974), St Mirren (1974-78), Aberdeen (1978-86), Scotland (1985-86), Manchester United (1986-2013)
Major managerial honours
Scottish First Division: 1976-77
Scottish Premier Division (3): 1979-80, 1983-84, 1984-85
Scottish Cup (4): 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86
Scottish League Cup: 1985-86
Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup: 1982-83
Uefa Super Cup: 1983
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
Community Shield (10): 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011
Uefa Champions League: 1998-99, 2007-08
Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup: 1990-91
Uefa Super Cup: 1991
Intercontinental Cup: 1999
Fifa Club World Cup: 2008
Major individual achievements
Premier League Manager of the Season (10 times): 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11
Uefa Manager of the Year: 1998-99
English Football Hall of Fame (Manager): 2002
European Hall of Fame (Manager): 2008
Fifa Presidential Award: 2011 .AFP.