Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is stepping away from his post at season's end, as reported on the club's official site. His final match as boss will take place on May 19 as the Red Devils take on West Bromwich Albion.
The announcement, which all United fans knew had to come eventually (though they may still be surprised by the timing), comes shortly after the club clinched its 20th league title. He's going to stay on as director, per the report.
He made the following comments about his decision:
The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. 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.
Ferguson led United to 13 league titles during his two-decade-plus stay at Old Trafford. It's going to take some time for fans around the globe to get used to another manager patrolling the United sideline starting next season.
Is Ferguson the best manager in English football history?
Whoever does assume the position moving forward will have huge shoes to fill. United became a powerhouse during Ferguson's stay, and the new manager will be asked to keep the club on that level. Anything less won't be acceptable after what Fergie accomplished.
As you'd expect, there was an immediate, massive Twitter reaction to the news. Let's check out some of the comments on social media.
You know an announcement is a big deal when the prime minister weighs in. Sure enough, David Cameron praised Ferguson for what he accomplished at Manchester United.
Michael Owen, who spent three seasons with United under Ferguson, talked about the idea of the club without him as the manager.
It's just not sinking in! Manchester United with no Sir Alex just doesn't feel right. What a man and great that it has ended on his terms.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) May 8, 2013
Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel made a comment that summed up the situation. Nobody knew when Ferguson would step aside, but today's announcement was swift and unexpected.
Disappointed, shocked, sad. Didn't think THAT day would be today.— Peter Schmeichel (@Pschmeichel1) May 8, 2013
FIFA president Sepp Blatter put Ferguson in an elite class upon hearing his decision to vacate the manager's post.
Just heard Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring at end of season. His achievements in the game place him without doubt as one of the‘greats’.— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) May 8, 2013
Premier League rival Chelsea called the longtime United boss a "fantastic adversary" and sent well wishes in his direction.
All at #CFC would like to wish Sir Alex Ferguson the very best in his retirement. He has been a fantastic adversary over 26 years.— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) May 8, 2013
Paul Carr of ESPN put Ferguson's accomplishments into perspective. The sheer number of titles illustrates why he'll go down as one of the best managers ever.
Sir Alex Ferguson retires. He won 38 trophies with Man United, more than any other manager in English history.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) May 8, 2013
Ruud van Nistelrooy called it a privilege to play for Ferguson for five seasons. He also included a picture of the two.
To show exactly the type of impact Fergie made, even Manchester City star Vincent Kompany paid tribute to the club's rival manager. He gained respect from every corner of the football world during his extended tenure.
Sir Alex, one of the best managers of all time. After 26 years of success in the game, we all owe him a tribute.— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) May 8, 2013
The Guardian compiled some of Ferguson's best quotes from over the years, including a couple directed toward City, such as:
Sometimes you have a noisy neighbour. You cannot do anything about that. They will always be noisy. You just have to get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder.
David Moyes favourite for #mufc job. Minimal European experience but a man & manager of substance, driven, builds well, gives youth a chance— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) May 8, 2013
The reaction wouldn't be complete without a message from Cristiano Ronaldo. He summed up his thoughts quite simply.
Thanks for everything, Boss. twitter.com/Cristiano/stat…— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) May 8, 2013
His message has already been re-tweeted 60,000 times, and plenty of Ferguson's current and former players at United would probably echo the sentiment.