Sir Alex Ferguson's departure, even at the age of 71, will have come as a sad surprise to many, and his successor faces a daunting challenge.
Farewell Sir Alex Ferguson
From David Cameron to Manchester schoolboys, fans of British football around the world praised Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday, after he said he will retire at the end of this season. His final game will be his 1,500th as the manager of Manchester United.
Even supporters of Manchester's other big club - the one we all root for - will acknowledge that Sir Alex is a titan. In his 26 years as manager at Old Trafford, his clubs have amassed an impressive pile of hardware: 38 trophies in all, 13 of them in the 21 years of Premier League play. Man U has never finished outside the top three spots in the Premier League. Surely no team in any professional sport has ever been so dominant.
Players - and managers - come and go in every sport. Very few attain this kind of success and stature. After 26 years nobody can pretend that simply luck, or even "Alex time", explains it. It is the man's skills and accomplishments that have made him a legend.
His departure, even at the age of 71, will have come as a sad surprise to many. For United fans in particular it will be hard to imagine anyone else, with or without chewing gum, supervising the side at Old Trafford.
For Manchester City fans, however, there is a hint of a silver lining: dominant with Sir Alex, Man U surely can't get any better without him, can they?