Fergie's final whistle echoes in China

Hong Kong fans say Manchester United manager will be a tough act to follow after his retirement

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 8:49am

Millions of Manchester United fans in Hong Kong and on the mainland were last night trying to come to terms with manager Alex Ferguson's retirement.

The 71-year-old Scot's announcement yesterday signalled the end of a 27-year career that made him the most successful coach in British soccer history.

He said: "The decision to retire is one I have thought a great deal about and one I have not taken lightly. It is the right time."

The club, owned by the American Glazer family and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, did not immediately announce a successor.

The early bookmakers' favourites for the job are David Moyes, whose contract at Everton expires at the end of the season, and Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea boss who craves a return to England.

Although there is no official Manchester United Club in Hong Kong - many supporters prefer to organise their own satellite fan clubs - the club claims to have 2.2 million fans in Hong Kong and 108 million on the mainland.

Roy Ng, 25, who works for real estate group CBRE, spoke for many fans when he said he was devastated. "From the day I was born all I've known is Ferguson as United's manager," he said.

Teacher Greg Turner, 40, was worried about what the decision will mean for United's future.

"The club will have massive shoes to fill. You couldn't have a tougher act to follow."

United - with or without Ferguson - will return to Hong Kong for the first time in eight years to play First Division Kitchee in a friendly at Hong Kong Stadium on July 29.

Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said Ferguson could still come in his new role as a club director and ambassador.

"All tickets have been sold out," said Ng. "The players are always the ones to watch."

Since taking charge at Old Trafford in 1986, Ferguson has won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League championships, two Champions League titles and five FA Cups.

He said: "It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so."

He has just two more league matches left in charge of the club - against Swansea City and then at West Bromwich Albion.