Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson ponders retirement: reports
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly considering his position at the club.
A number of Wednesday's national newspapers claim the 71-year-old is ready to stand down, bringing an end to his hugely successful 26 and a half years at the helm.
The club were not available for comment when contacted last night.
Only this past weekend, writing in his programme notes to preview Sunday's Barclays Premier League defeat by Chelsea, Ferguson insisted he was intent on carrying on indefinitely.
In the wake of securing his 13th league title - and 20th overall for the club - he said: "This team of champions is not going away - we are here for the long ride.
"We will get better and if we apply ourselves in our normal fashion I see our 20th league title as nothing but the start of another decade of success.
"Whether I will be here to oversee another decade of success remains to be seen, but I certainly don't have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see."
There have nevertheless been signs in recent times to suggest Ferguson's days at the United helm might be numbered.
Last week, United privately confirmed Ferguson had been booked in for hip surgery in August, after the club's pre-season tour, which involves trips to Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong.
The timing of the operation appeared strange, especially as it is believed he could have undergone the procedure immediately following the end of this season.
Then yesterday, bookmakers slashed the odds on David Moyes replacing Ferguson amid reports the Everton manager would spend a season as his fellow Scot's assistant.
None of these stories have triggered any official comment from the club, who, as a partially floated company, are bound by US Stock Exchange rules and will surely be required to confirm the position in due course given Ferguson's significance.
If Ferguson does leave, he would do so as Britain's most successful manager, having claimed his 49th piece of silverware with this season's title win.
Ferguson has been around for so long, it is hard to imagine United existing without him, although that day must come soon, even if it is not in his immediate plans.
Certainly, veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs anticipates the Scot further strengthening his squad this summer, rather than considering his future.
"I don't expect many changes but the manager looks to strengthen where he can, whether we have lost a league or won it," Giggs told SiriusXM FC.
"He never stands still. He always wants to better the team."
Alex Ferguson's 49 trophies
Should reports of Sir Alex Ferguson's imminent retirement prove to be true, the Manchester United boss will stand down having won 49 trophies in the most successful managerial career Britain has ever known.
Spanning almost four decades, from humble origins at St Mirren, it is hard to imagine anyone getting close to the records Ferguson has set.
Scottish First Division (1): 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 (1): 1985-86.
European Cup Winners' Cup (1): 1982-83.
European Super Cup (1): 1983.
Manchester United 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.
Charity/Community Shield (10): 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011.
Champions League (2): 1998-99, 2007-08.
European Cup Winners' Cup (1): 1990-91.
European Super Cup (1): 1991.
Intercontinental Cup (1): 1999.
FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2008.
Alex Ferguson's top five signings
Peter Schmeichel (signed from Brondby, 1991) - Widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in Premier League history, the Dane's heroic efforts provided clean sheets aplenty and the security at the back which was so key to United's success throughout the 1990s. Schmeichel, recruited for around £500,000, knew how to intimidate opposition strikers by making optimum use of his frame and at times appeared just as fearful for his defenders, who would frequently receive a rollicking from him. Capped eight glorious years with the club by skippering United - in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane - in the 1999 Champions League final as Ferguson's men secured the treble.
Eric Cantona (signed from Leeds, 1992) - Cantona's five-year spell at United will never be forgotten. The Frenchman, who cost Ferguson just over £1million, gave the club's fans many a moment to savour on the pitch with his dazzling skills, which helped the Red Devils to a haul of four Premier League titles and two FA Cups. But what perhaps cemented his iconic status was the way he played the part of the tortured genius. The most infamous instance of his short temper was the kung-fu kick he aimed at a Crystal Palace supporter and he made philosophical comments afterwards about seagulls following a trawler. It was somewhat appropriate that he exited early leaving the crowd wanting more, retiring aged 30 in 1997.
Roy Keane (signed from Nottingham Forest, 1993) - The £3.75million Ferguson paid Forest for Keane was a British transfer record at the time, but there is little question that he got value for money. In 12 years of service, the Irish midfielder was United's engine room and driving force as they dominated English football through the 1990s and into the next decade. He also led them to the 1999 Champions League final, only to miss the game through suspension. Keane succeeded Cantona as captain and was just as combustible a character, if not more so. But it was that edge on the field that so endeared him to United fans and made him the player everyone else wanted in their team.
Cristiano Ronaldo (signed from Sporting Lisbon, 2003) - Ferguson signed a teenage Ronaldo for £12.24million and it looked as if he may have paid over the odds for little more than a showboater in the early days of the Portuguese forward's United career. He soon showed his game was not just about stepovers, though, developing into one of the world's most potent players. Ronaldo scored an incredible total of 42 goals for the club in the 2007-08 season as the Red Devils won the Champions League. Although his exit to Real Madrid a year later was a blow, the world record £80million fee he commanded softened it considerably.
Edwin van der Sar (signed from Fulham, 2005) - Van der Sar was 34 when he arrived at Old Trafford for an undisclosed fee, but the Dutch goalkeeper was in no way a fading force. It soon became apparent that Ferguson had finally found the solution in a position which had been a problem for United since Schmeichel's departure, as Van der Sar's reliable hands helped the team achieve a new period of success. He broke a multitude of records with his clean sheets in the 2008-09 season and finally retired from football in 2011, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League with the Red Devils.
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The UK's greatest managers
By Simon Stone
In pure trophy terms, Sir Alex Ferguson is unmatched as Britain's best manager.
His 13th Premier League title represented the 49th time he had got his hands on some silverware, meaning that should reports of his imminent retirement be true, he will step aside with a remarkable total one short of a half century.
Yet debate is never quite so simple.
There are others who have a claim on being Britain's best. We look at their records.
HERBERT CHAPMAN (Northampton, Leeds City, Huddersfield, Arsenal)
Pioneered a tactical approach to the game at non-league Northampton and impressed at Leeds until an irregular payments scandal broke that got him banned. Returning at Huddersfield, he won the FA Cup, and then back-to-back league titles before joining Arsenal, where he also won the FA Cup and two more championships, before dying suddenly of pneumonia, aged just 55, in 1934. His Arsenal team went on to win three successive championships.
MATT BUSBY (Manchester United, Great Britain, Scotland)
The man whose achievements Ferguson was asked to emulate. When Busby joined United, they didn't even have a ground to play on after Old Trafford had been bombed. It didn't prevent him winning the FA Cup in 1948 and, after a few near misses, the league title for the first time in 1956, with a team of young players affectionately known as 'The Busby Babes'. Ignoring Football League orders, Busby also took United into Europe, although his dreams were shattered in Munich in 1958 when eight of his players were amongst the 23 passengers who died in a plane crash. Within 10 years, Busby had rebuilt his team and they became the first English team to win the European Cup in 1968.
JOCK STEIN (Dunfermline, Hibernian, Celtic, Leeds, Scotland)
The man Ferguson reveres more than any other. Stein had already made a big impression as head of Celtic's reserve team and won the Scottish Cup in his first full season as a senior manager, with Dunfermline. After a brief stint at Hibs, Stein returned to Celtic, where he enjoyed unparalleled success. He lifted nine titles in a row, and five domestic Doubles. In 1967, Celtic became the first British team to win the European Cup, with a group of players all born within 30 miles of Glasgow. Stein suffered a heart attack and died during Scotland's World Cup qualifier in Wales in 1985.
BILL SHANKLY (Carlisle, Grimsby, Workington, Huddersfield, Liverpool)
After developing an impressive reputation in the lower leagues, Shankly arrived at Anfield on December 14, 1959 after Liverpool had been in the Second Division for five years, and just been defeated by non-league Worcester City in the 1958-59 FA Cup. When he retired in 1974, he had won three league titles, two FA Cups and brought the Reds their first European trophy, the UEFA Cup, in 1973. Although he didn't win the European Cup Shankly is credited with laying the foundations for what was to follow.
DON REVIE (Leeds, England, UAE, Al Nassr, Al Ahly)
Greatest achievement in his first couple of years at Elland Road was abandoning the traditional blue and yellow kit in favour of the now famous all white. But once the Second Division title had been secured, Revie set Leeds on the path to greatness. Supplementing a combative, youthful squad with the likes of Johnny Giles, Leeds contested every major honour for a decade. They only won two titles and a single FA Cup, but they were also runners-up on an incredible eight occasions, as they were in the 1973 European Cup Winners' Cup and 1975 European Cup. Leeds also won the Fairs Cup twice. Quit in 1974 to manage England, then left for UAE in controversial circumstances.
BRIAN CLOUGH (Hartlepool, Derby, Brighton, Leeds, Nottingham Forest)
Brilliant, but hugely controversial figure. His achievement of winning the league title with two provincial clubs will probably never be matched, whilst it is even less likely a club the size of Nottingham Forest would ever win back-to-back European Cups. Regarded himself as the greatest manager England never had, with the Football Association backing off due to his record of confrontation. Lasted 44 days at Leeds after succeeding long-standing rival Don Revie. Won League Cup four times but never managed to lift the FA Cup.
BOB PAISLEY (Liverpool)
Stepped up from the Boot Room to replace Shankly and produced a period of sustained success unmatched in the English game at the time. In his nine seasons in charge, Paisley secured six league titles. In addition, he won the League Cup on three occasions, the Charity Shield on six, and the UEFA Cup. Most significantly, he led Liverpool to three European Cup triumphs in the space of five years. Paisley remains the only manager to have won the game's most prestigious club honour on three occasions, a feat Jose Mourinho is presently attempting to equal.
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