Sir Alex Ferguson to retire

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will retire at the conclusion of the 2012-13 Premier League season, the club revealed on Wednesday.

"The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about. It is the right time," Ferguson said in a statement.

The 71-year-old's decision to step down comes just days after he claimed his 13th Premier League title. He also won two European Cups, five FA Cups, four League Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup during his 26-year reign at Old Trafford.

He will manage United's final two matches of the current season against Swansea City on Saturday and West Bromwich on May 19 before moving on to a role as a club director and ambassador.

"It was important to me to leave an organization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so," Ferguson 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 began his managerial career at the age of 32 at East Stirlingshire before moving to St. Mirren, where he claimed his first trophy by winning the Scottish First Division title in 1977.

He then moved to Aberdeen and turned the club into a major force in Scotland in a league which had previously been dominated by Celtic and Rangers.

Ferguson's crowning achievement came when he won the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1983. Along with his European triumph with Aberdeen, Ferguson won three Scottish titles, four Scottish FA Cups and one League Cup which allowed him to land the United job, taking over for Ron Atkinson on Nov. 6, 1986.

Ferguson won his first league title with United in 1993, which ended a 26-year drought for the club, and he is the most successful manager in the history of British football, amassing 38 trophies during his career with United.

But perhaps his most memorable season came in 1998-99 when his Red Devils won the Premier League title, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.

"Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club," Ferguson's statement continued. "With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.

"As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs. Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich."

"Alex has proven time and time again what a fantastic manager he is, but he's also a wonderful person," Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer added.

"His determination to succeed and dedication to the club have been truly remarkable. I will always cherish the wonderful memories he has given us."

Taking over for the Scottish legend will be a tall task for any incoming manager, but Everton boss David Moyes appears to be the leading candidate for the job early on.

Moyes' contract with the Merseyside club runs out at the end of the season, but no deal has been reached between the parties and an announcement on Ferguson's replacement could be made within 48 hours.