Ferguson: I decided in December
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed he made his mind up to retire in December.
Ferguson announced on Wednesday morning that he had decided to quit at the end of this season after nearly 27 years as Manchester United manager. His final game at Old Trafford was the 2-1 win over Swansea, which was followed by his 13th Premier League trophy presentation.
There have been plenty of questions asked about when Ferguson made up his mind to go, with some wondering whether he had been eased out given last week's programme notes, in which he insisted he was staying, or whether it had something to do with his health. However, speaking to Sky Sports, Ferguson insisted neither theory was true, saying: "I decided at Christmas."
He added: "Cathy's sister died. She had lost her best friend and she has been isolated. For 47 years she has been the leader of the family. She has made a lot of sacrifices for me."
It was a touching reference to his wife, who has been responsible for bringing up their three children as Ferguson powered along as the most successful British manager of all time. And he admitted the news nearly slipped out on a couple of occasions before the public announcement, which came a day after the intense rumours about his future first surfaced.
"It was difficult to keep it a secret," he said. "Sometimes we nearly blurted it out to the family and we told our sons in March but my brother didn't know until Tuesday. I wanted to tell the players first and also my staff. Unfortunately there were rumours going around on Tuesday so we started to speed it up a bit."
Now the challenge of standing in Ferguson's mighty footsteps falls to David Moyes, whom the Scot urged supporters to stand by during his on-pitch post-game address prior to the trophy being handed over.
"I would like to remind you this club stood by me in bad times, the players and the staff," he said. "Your job now is to stand by the new manager."
Ferguson also paid personal tribute to Paul Scholes, who started Sunday's game and will also retire in the summer, and Darren Fletcher, who continues his recovery from a chronic bowel condition. And he insisted he would still be a regular presence at Old Trafford.
"I will be able to go along and watch them rather than suffer with them," he said. "Those last-minute goals, the comebacks and even the defeats are part of this great football club. It has been an unbelievable experience. I have been fortunate to manage some of the greatest players in this country, let alone Manchester United. They have represented our club in the proper way."