Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement after 26 years in charge of the club.
Sir Alex 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."
Sir Alex led the club to 13 league titles in 26 years as well as numerous other triumphs, making him the most successful manager in English football history.
But he is not leaving the club altogether when he bows out after the West Bromwich Albion game on May 19 as he will join the football club board and become an ambassador.
Sir Alex said: "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.
"Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world.
"Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both director and ambassador for the club.
"With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.
"I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential. My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career."
There was no immediate announcement about his replacement but among those in the betting are former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and Everton's David Moyes.
Now, for the first time in over a quarter of a century, United are on the hunt for a new manager.
David Moyes, out of contract at Everton, and Jose Mourinho, who is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, are the obvious favourites, although Borussia Dortmund's highly-regarded coach Jürgen Klopp and Bayern Munich's 67-year-old outgoing boss Jupp Heynckes will also come into contention.
It promises to be a major test of nerve for the Glazer family, plus Ed Woodward, who will replace David Gill as chief executive in the summer.
"Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is but he's also a wonderful person," said co-chairman Joel Glazer.
"His determination to succeed and dedication to the club have been truly remarkable.
"I will always cherish the wonderful memories he has given us, like that magical night in Moscow."
Avi Glazer added: "I am delighted to announce that Alex has agreed to stay with the Club as a director.
"His contributions to Manchester United over the last 26 years have been extraordinary and, like all United fans, I want him to be a part of its future."
Ferguson's exit coincides with that of the club's Chief Executive David Gill, who hopes to be voted onto UEFA's executive committee in the summer.
"I've had the tremendous pleasure of working very closely with Alex for 16 unforgettable years - through the Treble, the double, countless trophy wins and numerous signings," said Gill.
"We knew that his retirement would come one day and we both have been planning for it by ensuring the quality of the squad and club structures are in first class condition.
"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.
"The way he cares for this club, his staff and for the football family in general is something that I admire. It is a side to him that is often hidden from public view but it is something that I have been privileged to witness in the last 16 years.
"What he has done for this club and for the game in general will never be forgotten.
"It has been the greatest experience of my working life being alongside Alex and a great honour to be able to call him a friend."
Statement from Sir Alex Ferguson
“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.
“Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world.
“Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.
“I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential. My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.
“As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs. Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich.
“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.
“Over the past decade, the Glazer family have provided me with the platform to manage Manchester United to the best of my ability and I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a talented and trustworthy Chief Executive in David Gill. I am truly grateful to all of them.
“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.”
Alex Ferguson's 49 trophies
Sir Alex Ferguson stands 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.
Timeline: Sir Alex's career
1941: Born December 31 in Govan, Glasgow.
1957: Joins Queen's Park as amateur while apprentice toolmaker in Glasgow factory.
1960: Joins St Johnstone as part-timer.
1964: Quits toolmaking to join Dunfermline.
1967: Moves to Rangers for £65,000.
1969: Another move, this time to Falkirk, for £20,000.
1973: Joins Ayr, returning to part-time ranks while running his Glasgow pub.
1974: Appointed manager of East Stirling in September, but moves to St Mirren three months later.
1978: Sacked by St Mirren and appointed at Aberdeen as successor to Billy McNeill.
1980: First managerial honour as Aberdeen win Scottish championship.
1982: Aberdeen win the Scottish Cup, beating Rangers 4-1.
1983: Aberdeen retain Scottish Cup, this time beating Rangers 1-0, and defeat Real Madrid 2-1 in Gothenburg to lift European Cup Winners' Cup.
1984: Aberdeen win League and Cup double, beating Celtic 2-1 in the Cup final. Ferguson awarded OBE.
1985: Appointed caretaker manager of Scotland following death of Jock Stein during Wales v Scotland World Cup qualifier.
1986: Scotland bow out of Mexico World Cup after first round. Ferguson leaves Aberdeen to take over at Manchester United after sacking of Ron Atkinson.
1989: Breaks British transfer record to sign Gary Pallister for £2.3million from Middlesbrough.
1990: First trophy at Old Trafford as United beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in an FA Cup final replay after a 3-3 draw.
1991: United beat Barcelona 2-1 in Rotterdam to win Cup Winners' Cup.
1992: European Super Cup arrives at Old Trafford as United beat Red Star Belgrade, while first League Cup triumph booked with 1-0 defeat of Nottingham Forest. Championship dream dies as Leeds overhaul United in final weeks of the season.
1993: Old Trafford's 26-year wait for title is ended as United finish 10 points clear of Aston Villa to win inaugural Premier League title; Signs Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest for British transfer record £3.75million.
1994: United become only sixth team to complete championship and FA Cup double.
1995: Breaks British transfer record again to sign Andy Cole from Newcastle for £7million; United finish runners-up to Blackburn in the league and Everton in the FA Cup.
1996: United become the first club ever to complete the championship and FA Cup double twice, overcoming one-time runaway leaders Newcastle in the Premier League and then beating Liverpool 1-0 at Wembley.
1997: Claims fourth championship title in five seasons.
1998: Finishes season trophyless as Arsenal win double.
1999: Leads United to the treble of European Cup, Premier League and FA Cup; Knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
2000: Guides United to a sixth Premier League title, finishing the campaign 18 points clear of Arsenal.
2001: Wins seventh title in nine years.
2002: Changes plans to retire to sign a new three-year deal as United manager; United finish outside top two in Premier League for first time.
2003: Involved in dressing room bust-up with star player David Beckham, who it emerges was cut in the face by a boot kicked by Ferguson in frustration; Courts controversy by claiming Champions League draw is fixed; United win title again; Launches a legal action against major United shareholder John Magnier over stud rights to top racehorse Rock of Gibraltar.
2004: United win FA Cup with victory over Millwall in final; Signs Everton star Wayne Rooney for a fee which could rise to £27million.
2005: United lose FA Cup final to Arsenal on penalties.
2006: Wins the League Cup for only the second time thanks to a 4-0 thrashing of Wigan.
2007: Wins first Premier League title for four years but United are denied the double after FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea.
2008: Beats Chelsea to the Premier League title again before defeating the Blues on penalties in the Champions League final in Moscow. United subsequently add the Club World Cup before the end of the year.
2009: Retains Premier League title having already won the League Cup against Tottenham. United reach Champions League final in Rome but lose to Barcelona 2-0.
2010: Forced to settle for just the League Cup, against Aston Villa, as Carlo Ancelotti helps Chelsea reclaim the title; becomes United's longest-serving manager.
2011: Given a five-match touchline ban and a £30,000 fine for his verbal attack on referee Martin Atkinson at Chelsea in February. "You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway - and we didn't get that," said Ferguson in the aftermath of the 2-1 defeat. "I must say, when I saw who the referee was I feared it. I feared the worst."
2012: May - United are pipped to the Premier League title on a dramatic final day of the season, with bitter rivals Manchester City instead taking top spot on goal difference.
September - Ferguson manages his 1000th league game with United against Southampton. Two weeks later, he wins his 100th game in the Champions League be beating Galatasaray at Old Trafford.
2013: April 22 - United land a record 20th league title with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa.
May 8 - United announce he will retire at the end of the season.
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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