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ManU announced Wednesday that Manager Alex Ferguson will retire at the end of the season. Ferguson will step down after the West Brom game on May 19 and join the club's football board. Ferguson said, "The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time. It was important for me to leave an orgaization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so" (ManU). REUTERS' Martyn Herman reported Ferguson was Britain's "longest-serving and most decorated football manager," having served for more than 26 years and nearly 1,500 matches. His decision "ends a gliterring era at Old Trafford in which the club won 13 English league titles, two European Cups, five FA Cups and four League Cups as well as the FIFA Club World Cup." The suddenness of his decision left some "who served under him in a state of disbelief." Former ManU keeper Peter Schmeichel said, "I'm shocked, it's a bombshell" (REUTERS, 5/8). In London, Roger Blitz reported Ferguson "will take a boardroom seat and act as an 'ambassador' for the club." Ferguson spent Wednesday morning at the club’s Carrington training ground, "followed by other members of the coaching staff and the playing squad." For ManU's Owners -- U.S.-based Glazer family -- the transition to a new coaching setup "represents one of their most difficult challenges since they bought the club in a highly leveraged buyout" in '05 (FT, 5/8).
MOYES TO REPLACE FERGUSON: In London, James Ducker reported Everton Manager David Moyes "will be named as the new manager" at ManU, which will "turn to another Scot to take up the daunting task of succeeding one of the greatest managers in football history." Moyes, 50, is "out of contract at Goodison Park in the summer and had declined to commit his future to the Merseyside club beyond the summer." He left the club’s training ground at Finch Farm with his brother, who is also his agent, "shortly after 1pm" local time Wednesday. Two of Ferguson’s "most trusted lieutenants," Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, will form "part of the backroom staff" (LONDON TIMES, 5/8). Also in London, Mark Ogden reported despite long-term speculation linking Real Madrid coach José Mourinho coming to ManU in the event of Ferguson's retirement, Mourinho "lacks support among the higher echelons of the United hierarchy." Moyes' record at Everton since arriving from League One Preston North End FC in March '02 "lacks a trophy, or experience of Champions League football beyond the qualifying rounds," but his "readiness to build teams and promote youth is understood to be central" to ManU's decision to recruit him (TELEGRAPH, 5/8).
BUSINESS AS USUAL: In London, Oliver Kay wrote "When the dreaded moment came for Manchester United yesterday, life carried on as normal. Old Trafford was still standing, Stretford was not ravaged by locusts and the River Irwell was not turned to raging, angry waves." Instead, the message from the club was "business as usual" and one of "evolution rather than revolution." And while many thought Mourinho would be the new manager, "United had already decided to rurn to the more homespun figure of David Moyes." Kay: "What Moyes has is something of Ferguson's values -- not just the work ethic but a competitive spirit that seems particular to a certain type of Scottish manager; a fierce, obsessive loyalty and a one-club mentality" (LONDON TIMES, 5/9).
TWITTER ANNOUNCEMENT: The GUARDIAN wrote in its Media Monkey blog that "the final curtain on the most successful managerial career in world football" was announced not in a frenzied press conference, or a ceremonial farewell on the Old Trafford pitch, "but in a 97-character tweet." Such "is the modern way." ManU made the annoucement on its official press office Twitter account at 9:17am local time with the words: "Sir Alex Ferguson retires. #thankyousiralex" (GUARDIAN, 5/8). In London, Charles Arthur wrote "if you want an idea of the reverence with which Sir Alex Ferguson is held, Twitter has an easy guideline: more than Margaret Thatcher, but less -- so far -- than the new Pope." That "is the conclusion that emerges from the number of tweets surrounding the three events" -- the death of Lady Thatcher, the announcement of the new pope, and Wednesday's announcement by ManU's Twitter account. According to Twitter, the hour after Thatcher's death saw 1 million tweets "in the following four hours." Ferguson "broke that easily," as the much-expected news of his retirement from the manager's job had more than 1.4 million mentions on Twitter within the first hour, and the original story was retweeted and "favourited" more than 18,000 times. However, the announcement of the choice of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be the new pope on March 13 "garnered substantially more mentions," 7 million, demonstrating that "while football may be a religion for many, it still has a little way to catch up with the officially recognised ones, at least on social media" (GUARDIAN, 5/8).
ON TOP OF EVERYTHING: In London, Ashton, Ladyman & Sheeler wrote "an astonishing day at Manchester United took an incredible twist" when it came out that Wayne Rooney "has asked to leave Old Trafford" and the club is close "to securing the return of Cristiano Ronaldo." Rooney told the club "he wants a fresh start." It also emerged that outgoing CEO David Gill has been in Madrid to meet Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes. Sources say United is confident "of securing the return of the player they sold to Real Madrid for a world record £80M in '09" (DAILY MAIL, 5/8).
President of La Liga Sevilla FC José María del Nido has predicted that the current distribution of TV rights "could bring total bankruptcy" to Spanish professional football, according to the EFE. The Seville, Spain conference, attended by Seville Mayor Juan Ignacio Zoido, was titled "Centralized Sale of Football TV Rights and Equitable Distribution. Financial Control of UEFA and Spanish Football League (LFP) For Financial Fair Play." Del Nido assured that Spanish football "is in a delicate situation" and "some clubs will see themselves destined to disappear" because Real Madrid and Barcelona hoard the income from TV rights. Del Nido: "The distribution of money is the most unequal in all of the continent. It's 15-1 comparing Madrid and Barcelona with what the others receive." Del Nido highlighted that the two Spanish powers receive 56% of all the money from TV rights, with just 44% split among the remaining 18 La Liga and 22 Second Division clubs. According to del Nido, Barcelona and Real Madrid earn positive incomes of €25M ($33M) each year, while "the rest lost one hundred million." Del Nido pointed out the example of the Premier League in '10-11, when the winner, ManU, made €48M ($63.3), only double the money, €25M, earned by the last-place team, West Ham. Meanwhile, Real Madrid and Barcelona earned €185M ($243.8M), compared to clubs like Rayo Vallecano, which made only €9M ($11.9M) (EFE, 5/8).
The Football League admits that "it is powerless to intervene to halt the mismanagement which has caused Blackburn Rovers' rapid decline, with the club still to agree a pay-off for sacked Manager Michael Appleton," according to Herbert & Dathan of the London INDEPENDENT. The League's Memorandum of Association states that it exists to "regulate the activities of member clubs and their respective officers, employees, registered players and agents" -- a mandate which "has led the League Managers' Association and others in the game to urge the governing body to act," after the High Court farce which led a judge to order the payment of £2.25M ($3.5M) to sacked Manager Henning Berg a week ago: £39,473 ($61,400) a day for each of the 57 days he was in charge. Football League Chair Greg Clarke has not responded to The Independent's request "to discuss the Blackburn situation," but the body has now issued a statement declaring that it simply has "no mandate to intervene in the running of individual clubs." Football Supporters' Federation Chair Malcolm Clarke said Tuesday night that "the lack of power available to member organisations," such as the Football League, to intervene, should compel the FA "to introduce new rules to stop clubs being ruined, as Blackburn are" (INDEPENDENT, 5/8).