By Greg Stobart
Sir Alex Ferguson broke down in tears during an emotional goodbye to Manchester United staff on Wednesday morning following the announcement of his decision to retire, Goal.com can reveal.
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Sir Alex arrived at the club's Carrington training base at 06.50BST and made a series of phonecalls amid intense speculation that he was set to quit.
Once the entire first-team squad had arrived for training, the 71-year-old held an eight-minute meeting with the players and senior staff during where he informed them of his decision.
Sources say that the players were "quiet and shocked" as they left the meeting, with some clearly emotional. Sir Alex was the last man out of the room and was seen supportively patting assistant manager Mike Phelan on the back.
At 09.20BST, around the same time that United made an official announcement on their website, Sir Alex went to the main dining hall at Carrington to address the entire staff, from the tea ladies to the coaches.
The atmosphere was described as "pensive" and "sombre". By then, everyone knew what was going on.
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During a speech that lasted between eight and 10 minutes, the veteran boss choked up and became tearful as he thanked them for their support over the years and spoke of the wonderful support within the "United family".
Sir Alex became particularly emotional as he revealed that some people present - particularly technical staff - may lose their jobs as a consequence of his retirement.
After he finished talking, the Scot received a standing ovation as he shuffled out of the room, still clearly emotional as he brings an end to an extraordinary career at United since he took over from Ron Atkinson in November 1986.
He was scheduled to hold a one-on-one sit-down interview with the club's in-house television station, MUTV, at 10.30BST and it was unclear whether he still intended to join the United players at Chester races later on Wednesday.