Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that he had decided by last Christmas that he would end his illustrious reign as Manchester United manager at the end of the season.

The 71-year-old announced last Wednesday that he would be retiring following an unprecedented 13th Premier League title triumph, with Everton's David Moyes confirmed as his successor a day later.

The Scot's revelation came as somewhat of surprise given the year still remaining on his contract with Manchester United, but Ferguson explained on Sunday that the decision had been taken a number of months ago.

Ferguson's devotion to his wife Cathy led to the realisation that the time was right to leave Old Trafford as manager, with the death of his sister-in-law last December prompting him to retire after 26 years with Manchester United. 

"Things changed when Cathy’s sister died. She’s isolated a lot now and I think I owe her a lot of my own time," Ferguson said after the defeat of Swansea on Sunday.

"For 47 years she’s been the leader of the family, looked after three sons and sacrificed for me.

"I think she’s lost her best friend, her sister Bridget, so I think I owe her time, that was important."

Rio Ferdinand's late winner gave Ferguson an ideal send-off at the weekend following his final game in front of the Manchester United home support, with the centre-back crashing in a fine half-volley after Michu and cancelled out Javier Hernandez's opener.

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