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Sir Alex Ferguson has made a shock announcement via his legal representatives that this season will be his last at the helm of Manchester United. Ferguson has found himself at the centre of a media storm due to repeated outbursts at officials in charge of his recent matches. The 68-year-old has been United manager for over 23 years but last year said he would step down if his health or hunger for the job ever deteriorated. Since joining United from Aberdeen in November 1986, Ferguson has become the most decorated coach in British football. He has won the Premier League title 11 times, the FA Cup on five occasions, four League Cup finals, two Champions League triumphs as well as the now defunct European Cup Winners' Cup.

The Guardian reported back in 2009 that his son Darren believed that Ferguson would only last one or two more years in the high pressure job. Ferguson himself has already cancelled one retirement date, which was originally scheduled for the end of the 2001-02 season, and passed the normal retirement age of 65 several years ago. Since then he has stubbornly refused to clarify his intentions and has fluctuated from saying he has "many years" left to insisting that he will not work beyond the advanced age of 70.

Ferguson recently received a five-match touchline ban after his outburst about Martin Atkinson's handling of Manchester United's defeat at Chelsea, and is thought to be disillusioned at the way the FA has treated the situation. Throughout the last few weeks, he has maintained that the Football Association was unjust in punishing him for his criticism of referees, saying he was guilty of nothing more than "fair comment" and reiterating his belief that Manchester United have been the victim of "terrible" decisions.

Arsene Wenger, Ferguson's long-term rival at Arsenal, said he was not surprised by the Scot's decision.

"I was not surprised at all," said Wenger.

"You see the way he acts and manages his team that the hunger is still there. That's something that doesn't die in you but when you get older you have to analyse and consider your health."

Ferguson's potential successor has been a source of constant speculation, with ex-United players such as Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce high on the favorites list of taking over the club. He is expected to make an official announcement over the next few days.