Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson will retire at the end of the season after more than 26 years in charge, bringing to a close the most glittering managerial career in British football.
The Premier League champions confirmed on Wednesday that Ferguson, 71, would step aside following United's home game against West Bromwich Albion on May 19.
"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," Ferguson, who was in charge of 1,498 matches for the club, said on United's website (www.manutd.com).
Everton manager David Moyes, a fellow-Scot, and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho are the favourites to succeed Ferguson.
United said Ferguson, who took over from Ron Atkinson in 1986 and has won 13 league titles, five FA Cups and two Champions Leagues, would remain at the club as a director.
"It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so," added Glasgow-born Ferguson who was going to retire after the 2001-02 season but changed his mind.
"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 bright.
"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."
When Ferguson began his Old Trafford reign the club was languishing in the shadow of north-west rivals Liverpool but after a slow start he won his first English title in 1992-93 and turned the club into the dominant force in England.
He also launched the careers of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes as well as attracting players of the calibre of Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney to Old Trafford.
"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," Ferguson said.
"Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich."
Ferguson, Britain's longest-serving manager, oversaw the club as it moved into American ownership under the Glazer family in 2005 - an unpopular move among the fans.
"Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is but he's also a wonderful person," Joel Glazer, son of owner Malcolm, said in the club statement.
"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," he added, referring to the 2008 Champions League final victory over Chelsea on penalties.
Ferguson had dropped no hints that he was thinking about retiring and in programme notes ahead of last Sunday's game against Chelsea appeared to suggest he would continue his reign as the club's most successful manager for the foreseeable future.
"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," he wrote.
Ferguson, who is due to have hip surgery after the season, will be an almost impossible act to follow and suitable candidates for arguably the biggest job in world football are thin on the ground.
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