Sir Alex Ferguson retires as Manchester United boss

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An era has come to an end at Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson has announced that he will retire at the end of a season in which he has guided the club to their 13th league title under his leadership. Although he is 71 and facing major surgery in the summer, the announcement still came as a shock to players and fans.

"The decision to retire is one I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly," Ferguson said. "It is the right time." He felt that he had left the club and the first-team in an excellent condition. "The quality of this league-winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level."

Ferguson's success at Manchester United is testament to the virtues of patience in football. He had an inauspicious start as United manager and struggled to win the fans' support. There were regular calls for his dismissal. After the first Premier League title success in 1993 though, Ferguson became untouchable. "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," Ferguson said.

The manager paid tribute to the staff and players "for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs." Ferguson will remain at the club as a director and in an ambassadorial role.

Speculation now turns to the matter of his successor. If Ferguson has a say in who will succeed him that bodes well for Everton boss David Moyes, a fellow Scot whom Ferguson respects. The intriguing possibility is that Jose Mourinho might slow down his protracted negotiations with Chelsea now that one of football's most coveted managerial jobs is available.

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