Manchester United have confirmed Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring.
United did not respond to any requests for information about Ferguson’s position last night.
However, for a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it is impossible to imagine reports that such a senior figure is considering whether to end his long association with the Red Devils can go unchecked.
The announcement could come as early as this morning, although there was no hint of anything different from Ferguson as he swept into Carrington, on the outskirts of Manchester, just before 7am.
Ferguson confirmed on Friday that he would attend Chester Races today along with his playing squad, which follows on from yesterday’s golf day on a course quite close to United’s plush training ground.
The present silence from United has allowed Ferguson’s status to be questioned in a manner never previously witnessed.
Only last weekend, in his programme notes for Sunday’s Premier League defeat by Chelsea, Ferguson insisted he was intent on carrying on indefinitely.
Basking in the triumph of his 13th Premier League title, he said: “This team of champions is not going away – we are here for the long ride.
“We will get better and if we apply ourselves in our normal fashion I see our 20th league title as nothing but the start of another decade of success.
“Whether I will be here to oversee another decade of success remains to be seen, but 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.”
However, chatter over his future dates back 12 months to the nosebleeds he suffered at a dinner in his native Scotland, which caused him to be taken to hospital.
Although Ferguson himself insisted there was no problem, having been told he had taken too many short flights by the United team doctor, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan pointedly claimed this season would be the Scot’s last.
Ferguson subsequently failed to travel to pre-season matches in Sweden and Germany and also sat out a mid-winter training camp in Qatar.
Then, last week, United privately confirmed Ferguson had been booked in for hip surgery in August, after the club’s pre-season tour, which involves trips to Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong.
It seemed strange timing given the former Aberdeen manager could have had whatever procedure he requires immediately.
Repeatedly over the last few years, Ferguson has said his health would be the key to his own longevity.
On Monday night, there was a massive gamble on David Moyes to join United in the summer, with further speculation that he would leave Everton to become Ferguson’s assistant.
If Ferguson does leave, he would do so as Britain’s most successful manager in trophy terms by some considerable distance, having claimed his 49th piece of silverware with this season’s title win.
However, he would also do so knowing his last game in the Champions League, the competition that means more to him than any other, was the home defeat by Real Madrid, which he blamed on what he was adamant was a refereeing mistake to send Nani off.
London Evening Standard