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Departing manager predicts 'bright' future for the empire he leaves behind

Alex Ferguson insists the time is right to end his managerial career.

After almost 27 years in the Old Trafford hotseat, Ferguson has confirmed he will stand down at the end of the season.

It means the Scot will get the chance to say farewell to the United faithful when the Premier League trophy is presented after Sunday's encounter with Swansea.

Twenty-four hours after that he 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, before finally bowing out after his 1,500th game as Red Devils boss, at West Brom on May 19.

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."

The growing sense last night that a seismic moment in British football was looming meant the news did not come as a complete shock when it was confirmed to Ferguson's staff at the Carrington training ground this morning.

As players and senior figures within Ferguson's backroom team absorbed the information, the mood is said to have been sombre, knowing even with an element of continuity through the anticipated appointment of David Moyes, some kind of change is inevitable.

Sadness was the prevailing emotion among office staff, some of whom have been around even longer than Ferguson, and who felt the manager, who insisted he remained in rude health, was primed for another assault on the prizes next term.


Instead, they now know Ferguson had concluded his time was up.

As long ago as last summer, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan claimed the United manager would stand down at the end of this season as a direct consequence of the health scare he suffered 12 months ago, when he was rushed to hospital to stem nose bleeds caused by an excess number of short flights.

Ferguson did curb his travel to some extent, although he did head to Glasgow on Monday for the legends game between United and Rangers at Ibrox.

However, 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 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."