Ferguson, Scholes set for Old Trafford swansong

Alex Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford for the final time as Manchester United manager today, as he prepared to say an emotional farewell in his last home game.

Having announced his retirement earlier this week, the 71-year-old will watch his side tackle Swansea City in the Premier League as he prepares to bow out after a record-breaking 26-and-a-half-year reign at United in which he has won a British-record 38 trophies.

Ferguson has yet to make any public statements since the news broke on Wednesday, but he is expected to speak to the crowd directly at the end of today's game.

He was pictured on British television arriving at Old Trafford early in the afternoon, wearing a grey suit and greeting club officials as he made his way towards the home changing room for the final time.

Addressing the supporters in his programme notes, he wrote: "To the fans, thank you. The support you have provided over the years has been truly humbling.

"It has been an enormous honour and an enormous privilege to have led your club and I have treasured my time as manager of Manchester United."

Ferguson will be succeeded by Everton manager David Moyes, who is scheduled to take over on a six-year contract on July 1.

In another sign of the changing times at the 20-time English league champions, Paul Scholes will also say goodbye to the United fans after announcing that he is to retire for the second time.

The 38-year-old English midfielder, who returned from retirement in January last year after only seven months out of the game, revealed late on Saturday that he will hang up his boots "for good" at the end of the current campaign.

United sealed the league title with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa three weeks ago and with League Cup winners Swansea safely ensconced in mid-table, there is nothing riding on the game itself.

United midfielder Michael Carrick admitted that news of Ferguson's departure was still sinking in.

"It has been a strange week, to say the least. Everyone is still coming to terms with the fact he is leaving and a new manager is coming in," Carrick told BBC Radio Five.

"The initial thoughts were really disappointed and quite gutted when the manager told us as a team. It was quite sad in the dressing room.

"It was a huge moment, not just for us as players, but we were well aware for the football world in general.

"He is arguably the best manager of all time, so for him to be sitting in the changing room and telling us it was his time to retire, it was quite an emotional time."

Britain's Sunday newspapers paid tribute to Ferguson, with the Observer devoting a 12-page supplement to Ferguson's years at United, as well as lengthy pieces on its news and sports pages.

One of these quoted Liam Brennan, a United fan who had come to Old Trafford with his son ahead of the Swansea match to see if there had been any returned tickets.

"I'm just about old enough to remember the bad times before Ferguson arrived," said Brennan. "But all my son has ever seen is me jumping around the living room when we've won trophies. So it's that sense of the unknown: it's like a death in the family."

The final game of Ferguson's United reign will be at West Bromwich Albion next weekend.

Moyes also faces an emotional day on today, with Everton's Goodison Park fixture against West Ham United marking the final home match of his 11 years in charge of the Liverpool-based side.

Writing in the Everton match-day programme, Moyes said: "When you become a football manager, you're never sure if someday you'll be sacked and criticised for the work you've done.

"I hope that most Evertonians would see we have moved the club into the higher reaches of the Premier League more often than they had previously.

"Over the years we've had brilliant players come through the door but more importantly, I think I have had great men and I would never have been given any opportunity to succeed at Everton if it wasn't for the help that I have received from all the players who have worked under me."

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