Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson is the most decorated manager in English football history [Reuters].

Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his decision to retire from football, ending his 27-year period in charge of Manchester United.

Ferguson, who arrived at Old Trafford in November 1986, quit after frenzied media speculation about his future, sparked by news that gamblers had placed huge sums of money on David Moyes taking over from him.

The former Aberdeen manager retires having won 28 major trophies at United, making him the most successful manager in the history of English football. His departure comes just three weeks after United confirmed their 13th Premier League title, ensuring he departs on a high.

Ferguson will become a director when he retires as manager this summer.

No announcement has yet to be made on Ferguson's successor, although Moyes, who has been in charge at Everton for over a decade and turned the Merseyside club into Champions League contenders, remains the favourite.

"The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly," said Ferguson. "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."

Lasting legacy

Ferguson is certain to be remembered as one of the most progressive managers in English football history, revered for his enlightened approach to training and the use of foreign coaches.

He has overseen the emergence and development of British stars such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Paul Scholes, as well as foreign players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, who arrived at Old Trafford as a teenager and left as the world's most famous footballer.

Although Ferguson has courted controversy for his criticism of referees, his BBC boycott and his endorsement of the Glazer family as owners of Manchester United, he has also received widespread praise for helping young managers and supporting those who have lost their jobs.

Earlier this year, United's young Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea was asked to describe Ferguson's influence. He said his manager "inspires a lot of respect and know the best way to manage both the dressing-room and the players.

"He is more than a coach. He manages everything in the team. He is a father for all those who arrive at the club. For this reason he is the best."