David Beckham today paid tribute to his "father figure" Sir Alex Ferguson and hailed him as the greatest manager in football after the Manchester United boss announced his retirement.
Beckham, now at Paris Saint-Germain, said Ferguson's protective influence had been vital in his early career.
The former England captain said on his Facebook page: "As I have said many times before the boss wasn't just the greatest and best manager I ever played under he was also a father figure to me from the moment I arrived at the club at the age of 11 until the day I left.
"Without him I would never have achieved what I have done in my career. He understood how important it was to play for your country and he knew how much it meant to me.
"After '98 without the manager I would have found it virtually impossible to cope with the attention I was getting on and off the field and for this I will always be grateful to him for his support and protection.
"I am truly honoured to have been guided by the greatest manager in football and to have had the career that I had under him.
"Thank you boss and enjoy the rest!"
Charlton leads the praise
Sir Bobby Charlton hailed Ferguson as "sensational". Charlton was one of the United directors who appointed Ferguson in 1987 and he said: "He is such a fantastic manager. Everything he has done has been fantastic.
"He is a sensational person in every form and I am really delighted for him.
"I am a director but I hardly do anything because we are winning all the time and it is all down to Sir Alex Ferguson.
"He would get up in the middle of the night and travel 300 miles if he thought there was a school boy that he could sign."
Fellow United old boy Bryan Robson was another surprised by the decision of the man he will always call 'the boss'.
"It definitely came as a surprise," he said. "It would have to happen at some stage and I think the boss must have just felt he has got a lot of grandkids and maybe he wanted to spend a bit more with them."
Red Devils defender Rio Ferdinand also lauded 'boss' Ferguson, tweeting: "The bosses work ethic, his desire to win + to make us better players were unrivalled. Thanks boss."
Former United players also took to Twitter to pay their respects.
Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted a picture of himself and Ferguson on the day he joined Manchester United in 2003, adding: "Thanks for everything, Boss".
Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy also tweeted a picture saying: "2001-2006, 219 games,150 goals under the most successful manager in football history. It was a unique privilege."
Former United keeper Peter Schmeichel described Ferguson's decision to retire as a "bombshell".
"I'm shocked - I just can't make sense of the timing," he told Sky Sports News. "It has come as a bombshell, I really don't know what to make of it.
"Yesterday I was really happy with what he had done this season, now this, I'm disappointed and very sad.
UEFA president Michel Platini described Ferguson as "a true visionary".
Platini said: "His dedication, his attention to detail and his unique eye for talent, as both the manager of Manchester United FC and Aberdeen FC, has brought rich rewards over a 30-year period. He is a true visionary."