Fergie to retire within three years
© AFP

Sir Alex Ferguson will quit as Manchester United manager within three years, he told The Mail on Sunday newspaper. Ferguson, who has been in charge at Old Trafford since 1986, said he would be gone by the time he reaches 70 in December 2011.

The 66-year-old, who guided the English Premier League champions to the UEFA Champions League title on Wednesday, said: "I won't be managing here any more than three years at the very, very most. Without question. I can assure you of that."

The Scot reneged on his original plan to retire six years ago. "My wife, Cathy, was the one who talked me out of retiring last time but she wouldn't do that now," he said. "It's when you have to think about time for yourself. I think my wife deserves a bit of my time, too."

Ferguson said he had no immediate plans to vacate the manager's chair. "I know I would find it hard to give up managing United," he said. "I can't do it, not at the moment anyway.

"The big fear about retirement is what do you do with yourself? There are too many cases of people who retire and end up in a box soon afterwards because they have lost the very thing that keeps them alive.

"What I would like to do is travel to places I have never been to. I would love to go to the States and spend three or four months there. But that is only one year -- you can only do that once. You can only go to Australia once. You don't go every year.

"What you're left with is the time when you wake up at six o'clock in the morning and you go to get out of bed and you say to yourself: 'I'm finished.' That's the hard part."

A ton of trophies
Ferguson has won 10 Premier League trophies with United, five FA Cups, two League Cups, two Champions League titles, the European Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup.

And he is keen to take on an ambassadorial role at the club. "That is probably one of the avenues, but that is maybe for just 30 or 40 days a year," he said. "It will happen in some shape or form. I hope so. I have a good relationship with the club.

"There is no issue of me being sacked. There is no chance of me ever being sacked. I think it will be my decision. David Gill (the United chief executive) is happy with that."

Ferguson said he did not want to play a part in choosing his successor. "Definitely not. I subscribe to the Liverpool boot room theory to the extent that former players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville should have a position here at some point. But they are not ready for management just yet."

The Red Devils boss said he wanted to see Old Trafford extended to take the total capacity to 83,000.

Ferguson said that Cristiano Ronaldo, a key player in United's title runs this season, would not be leaving for Spanish giants Real Madrid. The Portugal winger's contract runs out in 2012. "If it's a new contract he's after, do you think we wouldn't give him one?" said Ferguson.

"We don't need to at the moment, although when he becomes 25 or 26 he may want a change. I won't be here making that decision. But it doesn't matter. It's a challenge for the club."