EVERTON’S David Moyes is expected to be confirmed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor before the weekend after the Manchester United manager yesterday announced the end of arguably the greatest career in English football.
United confirmed Ferguson, 71, is to retire after the club’s final Premier League fixture against West Brom on 19 May. It followed intense speculation on Tuesday that the Scot was due to call time on 26 years at Old Trafford.
Ferguson, who leaves United after clinching their 20th Premier League title, is set to stay at the club as a director and ambassador, and is believed to have played a key role in identifying his replacement, widely believed to be his compatriot Moyes.
Further uncertainty gripped Old Trafford last night, meanwhile, when reports emerged that striker Wayne Rooney asked for a transfer two weeks ago, prompting interest from Bayern Munich and United's domestic rivals Chelsea.
Rooney was sued by Moyes, his former manager, over remarks in his autobiography, My Story So Far, originally released in 2006, though the pair are thought to have since patched up their differences.
The Everton manager, interviewed to be Ferguson’s assistant in 1999, has earned respect for his shrewd stewardship of the Toffees, where he is seen to have over-achieved under tight financial constraints.
Moyes, who is out of contract in the summer, has led Everton to nine top-10 finishes and four European campaigns in 12 seasons at Goodison Park, but his only trophy remains the third tier title with Preston in 2000.
Ferguson, by contrast, amassed 38 trophies including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during his United reign, and believes he is leaving the club well equipped to maintain success.
“It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so,” he said. “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.”
Ferguson reneged on his plan to retire in 2002 after the announcement prompted a slump in the team’s form and only four days ago said: “I certainly don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away.”
United great and director Sir Bobby Charlton played down the need for Ferguson’s successor to have a track record of winning trophies, such as Jose Mourinho, who is believed to have wanted the job.
“It depends who it is,” Charlton said. “Alex has made his decision and whatever he does he will put the same amount of thought into doing the best he can.
“Whoever comes, he’ll help him and he will respect that his time as manager has gone. He won’t intrude,” Charlton added yesterday at a Royal Mail event to launch a set of stamps to commemorate the Football Association’s 150th anniversary.
“He’s now got a little problem with his hips and maybe he’s thinking it’s time he gave his wife a little more time. I think we’ve been lucky to have him as long as we have. He is an unbelievable talent.”
■ Voted LMA Manager of the Year three times (2003, 2005, 2009)
■ Named Premier League Manager of the Month 10 times, including twice this season (September, March)
■ Led Everton to top-eight finishes in the Premier League in seven of the last eight seasons
■ Qualified for Europe four times with the Toffees, including one appearance in the Champions League (2005)
■ Guided Preston North End to the League One title and consequently promotion in 2000
■ Won the Scottish Premier Division title as a player with Celtic (1982)
FERGIE’S FINEST HOURS
13 Premier League titles
5 FA Cups
4 League Cups
2 Champions Leagues
1 European Cup Winners’ Cup, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, Club World Cup
NOVEMBER 1986: Ten trophies in eight seasons at Aberdeen convince Manchester United to appoint Ferguson as successor to the sacked Ron Atkinson. He loses his first match 2-0 at Oxford United and finishes 11th, signs of a difficult first few years at Old Trafford.
MAY 1990: United resist calls from the terraces to sack Ferguson mid-season and are rewarded just months later when the Scot wins the FA Cup – the first of 38 trophies he would go on to win with the club – after a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in a replayed final.
MAY 1993: European Cup Winners’ Cup and League Cup triumphs followed but it was not until 1992-93 that Ferguson finally lifted his first Premier League trophy, mid-season signing Eric Cantona helping to end United’s 26-year wait for another top-flight title.
MAY 1999: United’s dominance of the 1990s took in two Doubles (93-94 and 95-96) and another Premier League title, yet it was crowned by perhaps Ferguson’s finest hour, an unprecedented Treble sealed by a last-gasp Champions League final defeat of Bayern Munich.
MAY 2008: Ferguson became only the third British manager to win the Champions League multiple times when United beat Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out in Moscow. He won eight more league titles and one FA Cup post-1999, before retiring yesterday, aged 71.