Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is to retire at the end of the season - with Everton boss David Moyes already installed as the favourite.
United confirmed the news on their website this morning.
“The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly,” said Ferguson.
“It is the right time.”
Ferguson’s last game in charge will be at West Brom on May 19 and he will join the club’s football board.
“It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so,” he 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 has had a career the like of which will never be seen again.
He won his 49th trophy in United’s 20th league championship and seemed set to extend his career into next season, confirming as much in his programme notes ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Chelsea.
Instead, with a hip operation booked in for August, this weekend’s Old Trafford encounter with Swansea, that will be followed by a trophy presentation, will be his last home game in charge.
He leaves behind a club in good shape.
“Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world,” said Ferguson.
“Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both Director and Ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future.
“I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential.
“My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.
“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.”
Bookmakers have unanimously installed David Moyes the odds-on favourite to replace Ferguson.
Bets on Everton boss Moyes surged in the wake of today’s confirmation, the Scot coming in to 1/5 favourite with Coral from 7/4.
Jose Mourinho had been neck-and-neck in the betting, but the rush on Moyes has seen the pendulum swing, the Real Madrid boss now at 4/1 with a number of bookies, including Bet365, Skybet and Victor Chandler.
“Nine out of every 10 bets we are taking are being placed on Moyes but we can’t be sure if this is a public reaction to the wall-to-wall media coverage which has put Moyes as a clear front runner or more informed money based on insider knowledge,” said Simon Clare of Coral.
“These next manager markets can take on a rollercoaster-style life of their own, but if money talks than David Moyes is about to be given the biggest job in football.”
Ladbrokes earlier installed Mourinho as their favourite at a price of 5/4, but they later joined their rivals in moving the Portuguese out to 4/1 as interest in Moyes increased.
Borussia Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp is regarded as the third favourite for most bookmakers, with Betfred offering odds of 12/1.
Former United players Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (20/1) and Laurent Blanc (33/1) are also attracting some outside interest.