Alex Ferguson has led Manchester United to 13 Premier League titles in 27… (Andy Rain / EPA )
He's meant so much to English soccer, he was knighted.
And now Alex Ferguson is heading off into that good night, confirming that this season will be his last as manager of Manchester United.
Ferguson, whose Premier League title this season was his 13th in 27 years at United, making him the most successful manager in British soccer history, will remain with the club as a director and ambassador. No other team has won more than three titles in the Premier League era.
Ferguson also won two Champions Leagues, the Winners' Cup, five FA Cups and four League Cups at United. The club had gone 19 years without a league title -- and had even been relegated once -- before Ferguson took over in 1986.
"For the American sports fan, this is John Wooden, Phil Jackson, Vince Lombardi all wrapped into one," ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman said.
The 71-year-old Ferguson's decision did not catch the club by surprise; three months ago Ed Woodward, the incoming chief executive, said there was a plan in place for a managerial change. Britain's Sky News says a deal to appoint successor has already been finalized, with Everton boss David Moyes the favorite.
"The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly," Ferguson said in a statement released by the club. "It is the right time. It was important to me to leave an organization 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."
Ferguson's final game, at West Bromwich Albion on May 19, will be his 1,500th with United. And he'll go out with 38 trophies overall, including a historic treble in 1999 when United won the Premier League, the Champions League and FA Cup in the same season.
British Prime Minister and Aston Villa fan David Cameron was among those who took to Twitter with a tribute to Ferguson, writing "Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievement at #MUFC has been exceptional. Hopefully his retirement will make life a little easier for my team #AVFC".
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