Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson announced today his plans to retire at the end of this season after 26 years in charge the Premier League champions.
The Scot has won 38 trophies with United since his arrival in 1986, and the 71-year-old is the clubs’ most successful manager in their history.
“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."
Ferguson is not only United’s most successful manager but the most successful manager in English football history. He is expected to take on a director’s role and remain associated with the club, overseeing it’s future and the continuity of the legacy he leaves behind him.
Meanwhile, since the announcement today, speculation has been rife over who will be Ferguson’s successor as manager.
Presently Everton manager David Moyes is the bookmakers’ favourite, along with Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho and Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, although the club have yet to give any indication of who will replace Ferguson.
Chief executive David Gill marked the ‘end of an era’, following Ferguson’s announcement.
“It’s a momentous day for the manager, for the club, all the fans and the football world. There is a tinge of sadness as a great, great manager – the like of which will never be repeated in my opinion – is stepping down after a very successful season and a very successful 26 years.”
“There is a hint of sadness but a realisation that the time he’s chosen to move on is the right one for him and to let him make that decision,” he added.
However, Gill revealed that the club’s appointment of a replacement will be swift as they look ahead to the future.
"I’m not going to get into speculation on that [an exact date]... but we will move relatively quickly. I’m not going to define how quickly that is though," explained Gill.
Last night the players and personnel directly associated with United were understood to be ‘shrouded in doubt’ upon being told they needed to prepare for some ‘news’ to be announced about the boss’ future.
First-team coach Rene Meulensteen revealed he only discovered the news this morning when Ferguson stated his intensions to retire at United Carrington training complex.
“He called us into his office and said what decision he had taken,” Meulensteen revealed.
"It's always been on the cards - there has been speculation every season but the manager kept his cards close to his chest. He felt the time was right now and he's made that decision.”
United legend Peter Schmeichel admitted he was ‘caught off-guard” by the news.
“I am shocked,” he said.
“This has come as an absolute bombshell; I really didn't see it coming. I am sad and disappointed. I was really happy with what we have done this season, bringing the Premier League trophy home, so I am shocked.”
ManUtd.com have a small page setup outlining some of Ferguson’s most inspiring and memorable words of wisdom in his time as United boss.
A number of formerly United players, legends and even some more forgettable players have paid tribute to the manager who means so much to the club.
Even Ferguson’s ‘biggest ever flop’ Massimo Taibi told the press:
“Ferguson is an institution. For (nearly) thirty years has made the fortunes of his team.”
"He understood that he had come to the point where he could no longer give what he wanted his players and wanted to retire after another big win,” he added.
The Manchester Evening News have dedicated a special photo tribute to the 71-year-old who has given so much to so many people in his career as both a player and a manager.
The BBC have a similar slideshow of a ‘career in pictures’ consisting of archival snaps of the Scot’s best moments in charge of the Red Devils.
The MEN also have a run-down of the best of Fergie’s ‘bust-ups’ detailing his most memorable disagreements with other personalities and industry professionals.
In other news, United title parade will start at Old Trafford, it has been announced.
The champions’ open-top bus tour is confirmed to start at 6pm on the forecourt of Old Trafford’s East Stand on Monday and will travel towards the city centre where it is expected to arrive at Albert Square at 7.40pm, according to Manchester City council.