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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson to step down at United before 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed he will quit Manchester United in the next three years.

The Old Trafford boss has been loath to set a date for his Old Trafford departure after reneging on his original plan to retire six years ago.

But in the wake of United's Champions League final victory, the 66-year-old said: 'I won't be managing here any more than three years at the very, very most. Without question. I can assure you of that.'

Ferguson is already the most successful manager in the history of the English game, having won 20 major trophies in his time at Old Trafford.

But he is already beginning to ponder life after football, saying: 'You have to think about time for yourself.

'I think my wife deserves a bit of my time, too.

'The older you get, the more you feel guilty about it.

'My wife, Cathy, was the one who talked me out of retiring last time but she wouldn't do that now.'

But Ferguson, who has been United manager for more than 21 years, insists he has no immediate plans to step down.

'I know I would find it hard to give up managing United,' he said.

'I can't do it, not at the moment anyway.'

Meanwhile, Manchester United chief executive David Gill believes Carlos Queiroz is 'very much in the frame' to succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford.

Ferguson revealed he will finally quit as United boss within the next three years. And although Gill insists he has not been told that by Ferguson himself, he conceded United could follow in Liverpool's example with an internal appointment when the Scot does step down.

'We haven't discussed that,' Gill told the BBC.

'I think his guiding principle over whether he stays is whether he is healthy and still has the desire, which I'm sure he will have.

'It's still three and a half years away, we will look at it at that time.'

Asked about planning for Ferguson's successor, Gill added: 'We are making sure our squad is continually reviewed and improved as necessary and the age of the squad is right so that, when Alex does decide to retire, anyone taking over has a fantastic squad with the right age profile.

'We also have an assistant manager who will be very much in the frame in Carlos Queiroz.

'He's clearly a key part of our success. If you look at what Liverpool achieved in their very successful years during the `70s and `80s (that) was through internal appointments.

'Carlos is a key factor in all the success we've achieved over the last couple of seasons.'

Ferguson has already gone back on one promise to retire but insisted he will not be managing at Old Trafford by the time he reaches 70 in December 2011.

'I won't be managing here any more than three years at the very, very most. Without question. I can assure you of that,' the 66-year-old said.

'You have to think about time for yourself. I think my wife deserves a bit of my time, too.

'The older you get, the more you feel guilty about it.

'My wife, Cathy, was the one who talked me out of retiring last time but she wouldn't do that now.'

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