Soccer

Old Trafford prepares for Ferguson farewell

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The Canadian Press
5/10/2013 9:41:46 AM
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LONDON -- For almost 27 years, Old Trafford has witnessed Alex Ferguson venting his anger from the dugout, berating officials, anxiously checking his watch and making celebratory jigs down the touchline.

On Sunday, 76,000 fans have one final chance to witness -- and savour -- the most successful manager in British football history taking charge of Manchester United on home soil.

With the title wrapped up, the Swansea match is effectively meaningless, but the United players will want to give their retiring manager a suitable send-off from Old Trafford.

And for the 13th and final time, the Premier League trophy will be presented to the 71-year-old Ferguson now that black, red and white ribbons have replaced the blue and white of Manchester City.

"It could be a bit emotional with it being his last game at Old Trafford and all the kids and everything there," Ferguson's son, Darren, said in a video interview with the magazine Twentyfour7 Football.

"No one will ever replace him -- it should be a good day for the family on Sunday but he's ready to go."

Ferguson is yet to explain why he has decided to bring an end to a United career that has yielded almost 50 trophies since 1986.

But former England coach Fabio Capello offered an insight on Friday following a phone call with Ferguson.

"A few months ago he told me that he was going to stay on," Capello told broadcaster Sky Italia. "The news of his retirement really surprised me. I called him and he told me that he decided this way because of excess stress. ... He told me that now he'll go and travel a bit, have fun and see the world with his wife."

Darren Ferguson, however, rejected the theory his dad retired because of health issues.

"There's nothing wrong with his health, contrary to what some people are saying," said Darren, manager of Peterborough United. "He's got to have a small hip operation but it's no different to most 70-year-olds ... he feels like he's going out at the right time, he's left the club in a fantastic position, very healthy."

It was his wife Cathy who persuaded Ferguson to reverse previous retirement plans for the end of the 2001-02 season, ensuring he went on to establish himself as the most successful manager Britain has produced.

That Ferguson is leaving on his own terms from Old Trafford would have seemed unthinkable during his early days with United when it took him four years to win his first trophy -- the FA Cup -- and another three to land the Premier League.

"He was the greatest coach of all time, especially because of all the difficulties he overcame at the start of his career with Manchester and for remaining for so many years on the same bench," Capello said. "It's really incredible. I normally think that after four-five years at the most a coach should move, so to think that he stayed on the same bench for 26 years is incredible.

"That takes psychological, technical and humane capacity. I had a special relationship with him."

Ferguson is being replaced by a manager in his own mould -- fellow Glasgow native David Moyes, who is leaving Everton after 11 years at the end of the season.

"I don't think anybody thought the day would come when Sir Alex Ferguson retired," Moyes said. "We all thought he was superhuman. He is an example to anyone in their 70s.

"The respect for him within the game is beyond any words I can use."

Alex Ferguson (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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