Ferguson retirement speculation 'rubbish'

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Not for the first time in his illustrious career, Sir Alex Ferguson has been at the centre of intense speculation about his date of retirement.

The latest rumours suggest the Scot will vacate the Manchester United hotseat at the end of next season, to be replaced by either Jose Mourinho or David Moyes.

Ferguson generally reacts with either irritation or amusement to talk of his retirement. On the eve of a crucial Premier League encounter with Tottenham at Old Trafford, he chose the latter option, while at the same time reinforcing the message he is going to be around for a good while yet.

"It is rubbish," he said.

"There is absolutely no truth in it. If I did, the only people I would tell are (chief executive) David Gill and the Glazer family."

"The only thing that determines my stating here is my health. Unfortunately for you lot I am in rude health. So you can suffer me for the rest of your careers. You'll be gone before I am."

The last part of the riposte was delivered, jovially, directly at the journalists who invade Ferguson's space each week, even more keen to dissect the week's events as the season approaches its end.

For Ferguson, it is the time of year when his competitive instincts are at their most alert, even if it is also the point of greatest stress.

"I don't think the next few weeks keeps you healthy," he said.

"It is not good for you but it is there. You have to accept there is pressure in life. I can deal with it."

Unless he finds the elixir for immortality, Ferguson, who will be 69 in December, will stand down eventually, bringing about a time of great change and uncertainty at Old Trafford.

Yet it is not just his inquisitors he draws energy from. Those he works with on a daily basis remained startled at the sheer gusto with which Ferguson goes about his job.

Having committed himself to appearing in the United Relief charity game at Old Trafford on May 1 along with a host of former Red Devils team-mates, reserve team boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits he is lost in admiration for the man who presided over the greatest day in his career, the 1999 Champions League final.

"He is very enthusiastic," said the legendary Norwegian.

"Sir Alex has more energy than any of us here. He drives the club on. His winning mentality and the hunger he has is just unbelievable."

"That rubs off on the players and the coaches and is why we hope he stays for a long time."

The response itself is predictable. After the shambles that occurred over his initial retirement U-turn in 2002 - when Ferguson revealed his plans 12 months in advance then saw team performances slide before he changed his mind amid claims that Sven-Goran Eriksson had been lined up for the job - the Scot is hardly likely to trumpet a leaving date so far in advance.