'Ferguson retirement would devastate fans'

Former Red Devils defender Gordon McQueen believes it would be tough for any potential successor to take the reins of the Premier League champions at this stage
By Russell Stoddart

Former Manchester United defender Gordon McQueen admits the club's fans would be "shocked" and "devastated" if rumours were true that Sir Alex Ferguson is about to announce his imminent retirement.

Rumours circulating Manchester last night indicated that the 71-year-old was considering his future after it was announced by the club that he would undergo a hip replacement operation this summer.

There has also large amounts of money wagered this week on Everton boss David Moyes leaving the Merseyside club to join United this summer.

Ferguson, who took over the reins in November 1986, has won his 13th title as United boss – a record 20th for the club – and regaining the crown that was lost to local rivals Manchester City last season had appeared to rejuvenate the veteran boss.

"It would be an absolute shock if it was true," McQueen told Goal. "For United fans there is never a right time for Sir Alex to leave. They would be devastated. How do you replace him?

"Of course, he is not going to go on forever, but there has been no indication that he is ready to call it a day just yet."

In his programme notes ahead of Sunday's defeat at home to Chelsea, Ferguson had given the biggest indication yet that he was intending to carry on for the foreseeable future.

He wrote: "Whether I will be here to oversee another decade remains to be seen, but I certainly don't have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe will be something special and worth being around to see."

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McQueen added: "I was at a Rangers Legends v Manchester United Legends game in Glasgow with Bryan Robson, Denis Irwin and David May [on Monday] and there was nothing to indicate he would be leaving. Sir Alex was there too but left at half-time to take in an Under-21 game.

"Hip operations are a worry, particularly for someone in their seventies, but Sir Alex had a pacemaker fitted to his heart a few years ago and that didn't slow him down.

"You can be sure that when he does decide to quit, it will be a decision made by him and on his own terms.

"I don't think there will be a big countdown to his departure, he will just want to make the decision and go. That might fit in with the sort of scenario now, but I just don't think this is the right time for him.

"He has just won the Premier League with a young side that will only get better. I'm sure he would find it hard to pass on that team to someone else.

"But even if it is just rumours and nothing comes of it, we all have to accept that there will come a time when he will decide enough is enough. However, United is in his blood and he will never walk away from the club.

"There will always be a place for him upstairs at United and then it will be fun and games seeing if his successor can carry on his legacy."