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Papers speculate on Ferguson's future at Man United; club not responding to retirement reports

Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United's training ground on Wednesday amid mounting speculation in British newspapers that he is preparing to stand down as manager after more than 26 trophy-filled years.

United, which is usually quick to issue official denials of stories it disputes, stayed silent since reports surfaced late Tuesday about the future of its 71-year-old manager.

The reports were based on rumors that were swirling at the team golf day on Tuesday, and stopped short of declaring that Ferguson was retiring.

They did provoke a media frenzy, with reporters starting to gather early Wednesday outside the team's Old Trafford base and the training ground.

The club, which is owned by the American Glazer family, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and would be required by regulations to announce significant news to the market.

Since taking charge at Old Trafford in 1986, Ferguson has established himself as the most successful manager in British soccer history, having reversed a previous plan to retire at the end of the 2001-02 season.

After the Scotsman won a 13th Premier League title two weeks ago — extending the club's record English championship haul to 20 — he declared that he had no retirement thoughts.

"I certainly don't have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see," Ferguson said.

But it emerged over the weekend that Ferguson requires hip surgery, and he has consistently said only health problems would force him to relinquish the job.

United chief executive David Gill told The Associated Press after the latest title triumph earlier this month that Ferguson had "not knocked on my door" and said he wanted to retire.