Ferguson reversed a previous plan to retire at the end of the 2001-02 season, but this decision seems final after taking the club’s English championship haul to 20.
United’s last home game — a chance for fans to pay an emotional farewell to Ferguson — is against Swansea on Sunday. United then travels to West Bromwich Albion on May 19 in the final match for the man who has defined the club for nearly three decades.
Ferguson will remain as a club director and ambassador.
“His contributions to Manchester United over the last 26 years have been extraordinary and, like all United fans, I want him to be a part of its future,” joint chairman Avie Glazer said.
Ferguson’s style was marked by a combustible temper. He often took out his ire on players, rival coaches, referees and the media. He has banned many reporters from the club over the years when he disputed their articles or line of questioning.
United’s highly-paid stars have long feared a raging Ferguson and his “hairdryer” treatment — a stream of in-your-face invective said to make one’s hair stand on end.
David Beckham was cut above the eye when Ferguson, furious at his team’s poor performance against Arsenal in 2003, kicked a boot in the changing room and it hit the midfielder in the face. Fed up with Beckham’s celebrity lifestyle, Ferguson sold him to Real Madrid, but there was no lingering bitterness from the former England captain.
“The boss wasn’t just the greatest and best manager I ever played under he was also a father figure to me from the moment I arrived at the club at the age of 11 until the day I left,” Beckham, who now plays for Paris Saint-Germain, wrote on Facebook.
“Without him I would never have achieved what I have done in my career. He understood how important it was to play for your country and he knew how much it meant to me.”
Ferguson’s legacy will also include phrases which have entered the football lexicon. “Squeaky bum time” is how he referred to the tense finale to a season. “Fergie Time” was coined to describe the additional minutes given by a referee in stoppage time when United so often scored under Ferguson.
Talk of Ferguson leaving first surfaced following the club’s golf day on Tuesday. When the official announcement came it prompted an outpouring of tributes from inside and outside the game.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said on Twitter that Ferguson’s “achievements in the game place him without doubt as one of the ‘greats’.”
UEFA President Michel Platini hailed Ferguson as a “true visionary.”
The announcement even grabbed the British media spotlight from the buildup to the State Opening of Parliament, where Queen Elizabeth II, who knighted Ferguson in 1999, was setting out the government’s planned legislation.
Prime Minister David Cameron, a member of the Conservative Party, hailing Ferguson as “a remarkable man in British football who has had an extraordinary, successful career.”