Ferguson: 'It has been an honour'
Sir Alex Ferguson claims he feels humbled by the support he has received during his time as Manchester United manager.
After almost 27 years in one of the most pressurised roles in the game, Ferguson has finally called time on his United career and will stand down after the final Premier League game of the season at West Brom on May 19. Ferguson will speak directly to supporters immediately after his last Old Trafford outing, against Swansea on Sunday.
But it is clear the bond between boss and club will remain strong, and he said: "The support the fans 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 the club. I have treasured my time as manager of Manchester United."
Twenty-four hours after the Swansea game, Ferguson will address the crowd at the start of United's trophy parade into the centre of Manchester, which is now certain to attract enormous crowds.
After 38 trophies and so many memories, it seems a brutal conclusion, especially as Ferguson declared in his own programme notes on Sunday that he intended to carry on for a while yet, but the 71-year-old is adamant he is right to bow out now.
"The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly," he said. "It is the right time."
As players and senior figures within Ferguson's backroom team absorbed the information on Wednesday, the mood is said to have been sombre, knowing even with an element of continuity through the anticipated appointment of Everton manager David Moyes, some kind of change is inevitable.
Having already had a pacemaker fitted in 2004, Ferguson had to take further notice of his health when he was informed surgery was required to cure a hip complaint.
So, in assessing a squad good enough to win the title with four games to spare and was unfortunate to get knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid, Ferguson concluded he they were in good enough shape for him to leave behind.
"It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so," said Ferguson. "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."