Sir Alex Ferguson today announced his intention to retire at the end of the current season. The 71-year-old will step back from the game assured of his reputation as one of the greatest, and arguably the greatest, manager of all time. FIFA.com picks out some of the key milestones from a remarkable career that has spanned almost four decades.
1 June 1974: Ferguson is appointed manager of Scottish Second Division side East Stirlingshire at the age of 32. The contract is part-time, earning him just £40-a-week, and he takes over a squad without a single goalkeeper.
7 October 1975: Having impressed as a stern disciplinarian in his first season with The Shire, he is approached by St Mirren and becomes manager of the Paisley club after seeking advice from his mentor, Jock Stein.
19 April 1977: The former Dunfermline and Rangers striker wins the first of his 39 trophies as a manager by guiding St Mirren to the First Division title.
31 May 1978: St Mirren become the first and only club to sack Ferguson after learning that he has agreed to join Aberdeen. The deposed manager loses a case for unfair dismissal at a subsequent industrial tribunal, which is told by St Mirren chairman Willie Todd that he possesses “no managerial ability”.
3 May 1980: The first of 16 top flight titles arrives as Ferguson leads Aberdeen to the second league championship of their history, and their first in three-and-a-half decades. Two more will follow before he departs, with the Dons’ 1984/85 crown the last won in Scotland by any team other than Celtic or Rangers.
11 May 1983: A stunning success in Gothenburg as Ferguson guides Aberdeen to victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final.
4 December 1985: With Ferguson at the helm, Scotland qualify for the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ by securing a 2-0 aggregate win over Australia in the intercontinental play-off. The then 43-year-old had been thrust into the role following the death of Jock Stein during the Scots' final group match in Cardiff, and went on to lead the team at the tournament itself.
6 November 1986: After rejecting offers from Arsenal, Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur, Ferguson leaves Aberdeen to become Manchester United manager. He joins with the Red Devils second from bottom of the English top flight.
8 November 1986: His first match as United manager ends in a 2-0 defeat at Oxford United.
7 January 1990: Mark Robins scores the goal that takes United through to the fourth round of the FA Cup at Nottingham Forest, and reportedly saves his manager’s job. The Red Devils, who had been without a win since mid-November, go on to lift the trophy – the first of Ferguson’s reign – by edging Crystal Palace in a replay.
15 May 1991: Mark Hughes strikes twice as Barcelona are beaten 2-1 in the Cup Winners’ Cup final in Rotterdam to secured United’s first European trophy since 1968.
26 November 1992: Having signed Peter Schmeichel for £530,000 the previous summer, Ferguson pulls off another spectacular bargain buy, paying champions Leeds United £1.2 million for Eric Cantona. "If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, who was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona," he would later reflect.
2 May 1993: Inspired by Cantona’s arrival, United climb from tenth place in the table to claim their first league title in 26 years, ultimately finishing ten points ahead of Aston Villa.
5 May 1996: Having been lambasted for selling the star trio of Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Anrei Kanchelskis and replacing them with youngsters such as David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers, Ferguson leads United to their third title in four seasons.
26 May 1999: Two stoppage-time goals secure a thrilling victory in the UEFA Champions League final in Barcelona as the Red Devils come from behind to beat Bayern Munich. The victory – which yields Ferguson’s famous “football... bloody hell” quote – guarantees the club an unprecedented domestic and European treble.
12 June 1999: The Manchester United manager becomes Sir Alex Ferguson after receing a knighthood from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. "If my parents were still alive to see this, they would be very proud,” he said.
4 February 2002: Having declared his intention to retire at the end of the 2001/02 season, and with Sven-Goran Eriksson reportedly set to replace him, Ferguson performs a U-turn, declaring that he will stay in place for at least another three years.
21 May 2008: Ferguson wins his second Champions League trophy and, again, it arrives in dramatic circumstances, with John Terry’s crucial slip in the penalty shootout paving the way for United to take the trophy in Moscow.
14 May 2011: The Scot’s declared ambition of “knocking Liverpool off their perch” having been long since achieved, he ensures that the Anfield club's record of 18 top flight titles is also eclipsed. A 1-0 victory at Blackburn Rovers secures championship number 19 for United, 12 of which have arrived during Ferguson’s tenure.
23 April 2013: Robin van Persie, a key summer signing, scores a hat-trick as United beat Aston Villa 3-0 to secure the 13th league title and 28th major trophy of their manager’s reign.
8 May 2013: Ferguson stuns the football world by announcing his retirement, telling United’s supporters: “It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to lead your club and I have treasured my time as manager of Manchester United."