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Alex Ferguson Says Sister-in-Law's Death Prompted Manchester United Retirement

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2015

Former soccer manager Alex Ferguson waves in the Royal Box of Centre Court, ahead of the men's singles semifinal matches,  at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Friday July 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Sir Alex Ferguson has divulged why he retired as Manchester United's manager in 2013—the death of his sister-in-law, Bridget Robertson.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph's Paul Hayward, Ferguson admitted he would have remained as United's manager beyond the 2012-13 season if not for her passing in October 2012, explaining that he made the decision to spend more time with his wife of 49 years, Cathy.

"I definitely would have carried on," he said. "I saw she [Lady Cathy Ferguson] was watching television one night, and she looked up at the ceiling. I knew she was isolated. Her and Bridget were twins, you know?"

As Hayward notes, Cathy was responsible for convincing her husband to stay on at Old Trafford 10 years prior after he initially decided to call time on his career as the Red Devils' boss.

"But when I told her this time I was going to retire she had no objection whatsoever," he added. "I knew she wanted me to do it."

Jon Super/Associated Press
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United fans would, without a doubt, have welcomed a similar change of heart from the Scot at the time, who won 38 trophies in 26 years at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League titles.

The Red Devils have struggled in the years since, with Fergie's successor David Moyes lasting just 10 months. Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Louis van Gaal has just started his second season at the club, but the club are yet to put together a lengthy run of convincing performances under the Dutchman.

In contrast to the extensive use of academy graduates under Fergie such as Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, the club have been forced to rely more heavily on the transfer market.

However, their forays in the window have had mixed results—strong acquisitions such as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin have been counterbalanced by the failure to land high-profile targets such as Neymar, Thomas Muller and Gareth Bale.

Under Fergie, it seems unlikely that the club would have struggled so much on and off the pitch.

However, in the wake of the 73-year-old's revelation, few supporters would begrudge his decision to retire, particularly after the incredible years of service he provided.

The famous quote from former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly about football being "much more important" than life or death springs to mind, but in reality, it seems that the opposite holds true.

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