Manchester United confirmed Wednesday that Alex Ferguson would retire later this month after 27 years as manager of the world's most iconic football club. He will stay at United as a director - a presence that will be a daily reminder to his successor of a legacy that will be impossible to match in its longevity, its style and the number of titles won.
Ferguson has managed and coached Manchester United since 1986. He gives up those roles with his team back on top of the English Premier League. "It is the right time," Ferguson said.
Ferguson has seldom missed a day on the training field, much less a night in the competitive arena. It is difficult to think of any comparable tenure in sports, politics or business during his time at United.
"The biggest challenge?" he once said. "Managing change."
A man of volatile temperament - sometimes a bully, often a father figure - he built and ruthlessly rebuilt five squads of players over more than a quarter of a century. One player, Ryan Giggs, grew up from a 14-year-old apprentice to a winger who is still running on Ferguson's first team.
Ferguson's style was defined by his giving youth its chance and clinging to experienced players while they still gave him value. But above all, he is a manager driven by a single goal: to win. A legend at work
Ferguson is now 71. He faces hip surgery when this season is done. He may not admit it, but he has just steered a team nowhere near the best squads in his reign to the title he vowed to regain the moment the neighbor, City, took it from him a year ago. The Scot’s top 5 signings
His desire to go out on top was insatiable. Whoever replaces him will have to take that challenge on. Ferguson's career was stamped with success even before he moved south from Scotland to Manchester on Nov. 6, 1986. He had galvanized Aberdeen, in the very north of Scotland, and it was the vigour of that team, the attacking style of it, that brought Fiery Fergie' to the attention of United. Long reign
The question Manchester had then, and may have about Moyes now, was whether he could manage the egos of some of the world's highest-paid athletes. Number game
Ferguson almost failed at the start. He was given something that his successor may not get - time. "It is important to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape," Ferguson said Wednesday, "and I believe I have done that."
What he did not address was the steel required of the next man in his seat. Many years ago, before Ferguson came south to the job, another Scot who had built up United from the end of World War II to the most renowned force in club soccer, remained on the board of directors. Paying tribute
It was always said that Matt Busby's presence around Old Trafford Stadium was an intimidating factor to the managers who tried and failed to pick up his baton.
Ferguson's successor will have to live with him on the board.
The bar is set terrifyingly - or inspirationally - high.