Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most--if not the most--successful soccer managers ever, has announced his retirement as manager Manchester United. The 71-year-old Scot, born in Glasgow, has ruled the soccer club with an iron fist for almost 27 seasons now, and his no-compromise approach not only changed the face of English soccer, but amassed a record haul of trophies.
"The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about," said Sir Alex in a statement this morning. "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."
Such is the nature of the sport, with its highly paid stars, global reach and, some say, juvenile behavior, Ferguson's iron fist always kept the club bigger than its players. Out went the drinking culture, and he spent almost a decade building an ethos and a squad before seeing the results.
In a sport where most players' careers are over by their mid-thirties, and where the revolving door spins at an alarming rate for both players and managers, he introduced a concept of long-termism which most clubs now try to emulate--and if they don't, they should.
Sportsmen who didn't shape up were shipped out: David Beckham, Jaap Stam, and even Ronaldo all eventually found themselves surplus to requirements. A stern father figure to the younger players, Ferguson even pitched up at a party and removed Ryan Giggs from the festivities.
He innovated by introducing fresh blood in the squad and new training methods to Carrington Road, United's training ground. He even sanctioned yoga for some of the older players--Giggs swears it is what keeps him playing as he approaches his 40th birthday.
Sir Alex will remain at Manchester United as a director and ambassador, but the focus is now on who comes next, with Jose Mourinho the bookies' favourite.
[Image by Flickr user Abhijit Tembenkar]