London: Manchester United have confirmed that Sir Alex Ferguson will step down as the club’s manager at the end of the season after 26 years in charge at Old Trafford.
The 71-year-old is the most successful manager in the history of English football, having won 38 trophies - including 13 Premier League titles - since taking over from Ron Atkinson in November 1986.
Ferguson will say his goodbyes to the Old Trafford crowd after Sunday’s home clash against Swansea before taking on a role as an ambassador on the United board of directors.
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In a statement on United’s official website, Ferguson 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.
“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.”
Ferguson scheduled a meeting to break the news to staff at the club’s Carrington training ground at 9.30am and will hold an interview with United’s in-house television station, MUTV, at 10.30am.
Everton manager David Moyes has been installed as the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed the Scot while Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is also among the favourites to take over at Old Trafford.
The announcement of Ferguson’s decision to quit came after intense speculation following a golf match between United players and coaches at Dunham Massey on Tuesday.
Ferguson has long been planning for his succession and has consistently cited his health as the decisive factor in the timing of his retirement. He had a pacemaker fitted in 2004 and United confirmed last week that he would undergo hip surgery in August.
David Gill’s decision to stand down as chief executive this summer also sees Ferguson lose a close ally within the club and there have been suggestions that he came close to quitting at the end of last season losing out on the Premier League title to rivals Manchester City.
Ferguson won his 13th league title this year and has previously expressed his regret over announcing his retirement before the end of the 2001-02, which he felt led to poor on-pitch performances and resulted in a U-turn after he had a change of heart.