We thought it was just a rumour, but no, it's true. Alex Ferguson has just announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United. At 71 years old, having reigned at Old Trafford for 26 years and nearly 1500 matches, he will no doubt go out on a high having already secured this year's premiership title.

Yesterday, at a golf match between Manchester United players and coaching staff, the team was told to expect an imminent announcement concerning the manager, and now such news has been confirmed.

Alex Ferguson had always maintained that his health would be the determining factor in deciding how long his career would extend. Whispers emerged from Old Trafford at the weekend that Ferguson is due for hip replacement surgery in the summer, meaning that he would be absent from the dugout for United's first few games of the season.

In hindsight the writing was on the wall. Earlier this week significant money was placed on Everton's David Moyes succeeding Ferguson in the hot seat, betting rumoured to be based upon solid information coming from within the club.

Whichever way it came about Alex Ferguson will be gone at the end of the season and will leave behind a gaping hole not only in Manchester United but in the English game where Ferguson has been the one constant over the course of the last quarter century.

These next couple of weeks are among the most important in the storied history of Manchester United because whoever is chosen to replace Ferguson will be charged with continuing the Scot's work. Will we witness a seamless transition or the slow unravelling of a football dynasty? Only time will tell.

But who will be charged with this task? The bookies seem to think that the aforementioned David Moyes of Everton or 'The Special One' Jose Mourinho (who is seemingly Chelsea bound, incidentally) are hot favourites for the job but Borussia Dortmund's outstanding young manager Jurgen Klopp is also a worthy target. The job has come too early for Fergie's protégé Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

What impact will the new manager have on the side? United are an aging team. Will Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand follow Fergie out the door and, if so, who will come into the club to replace them? This is a period of massive transition for the club and what Manchester United need is a seamless transition or they risk the slow unravelling of a footballing dynasty.

Wanted: The Special One.

As per the BBC, here is Ferguson's statement:

"The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about. It is the right time... It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so... The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one."

He went on to say his thank yous: "I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential... My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me... As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs. Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich... 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.

"Over the past decade, the Glazer family have provided me with the platform to manage Manchester United to the best of my ability and I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a talented and trustworthy Chief Executive in David Gill. I am truly grateful to all of them... To the fans, thank you. The support you have provided over the years has been truly humbling. It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to lead your club and I have treasured my time as manager of Manchester United."

One look at this staggering list of Ferguson's accomplishments and it's no surprise to see why so many Man United fans will be affected by this news.

Premier League: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013.

FA Cup: 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004

League Cup: 1992, 2006, 2009, 2010

Champions League: 1999, 2008

Cup Winners Cup: 1991

Fifa Club World Cup: 2008

Uefa Super Cup: 1992

Inter-Continental Cup: 1999

FA Charity/Community Shield: 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011