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While it took time for Ferguson to impose his leadership at Old Trafford, directors showed a degree of patience rarely afforded to current managers.

“In my early years, the backing of the board, and Sir Bobby Charlton in particular, gave me the confidence and time to build a football club, rather than just a football team,” Ferguson said.

With his unwavering approach, Ferguson eventually produced his first trophy in 1990 _ the FA Cup _ and in 1993 the club won its first top division title since 1967.

Since then, he has ended Liverpool’s dominance by overtaking its previous record of 18 English league titles, and preventing Chelsea, Arsenal and _ most recently _ Manchester City from establishing themselves as forces.

Now United will have to plan for a future without Ferguson in the dugout.

“Alex’s vision, energy and ability have built teams _ both on and off the pitch _ that his successor can count on as among the best and most loyal in world sport,” United’s chief executive David Gill said.

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Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris