SIR Alex Ferguson has bid farewell to the hot seat at Manchester United in an emotional send off at Old Trafford.

The 2-1 victory over Swansea City was almost incidental as more than 70,000 flag-waving fans created a carpet of red for an inspirational send-off to one of Govan's most popular sons after 26 years at Old Trafford.

In his 1499th game at the helm, the Scots legend made his entrance to deafening roars and the musical accompaniment of The Impossible Dream, in recognition of the 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues he won.

The electric scoreboard revealed the figures "26.38" – Ferguson's years and the number of the trophies he won at Old Trafford.

Both sets of players formed a guard of honour for Sir Alex as a fanfare rang out around the ground. One banner read: "Sir Fergie Fi Govan... Tartan Born & Red"

Sir Alex revealed he made his decision at Christmas after the death of his wife Cathy's sister, and told his sons in March.

"Things changed when my wife Cathy's sister died. She has lost her best friend, her sister. Also, I wanted to go out a winner," he said.

"It was very difficult [to keep it under wraps]. There were times when we sometimes blurted it out to the family. My brother didn't even know until Tuesday."

Sir Alex's replacement for what is one of the most coveted and toughest jobs in world football, Bearsden-born David Moyes, also received a warm reception from Everton fans at Goodison Park as he bid farewell to the club he managed for 11 years.

Sir Alex, in an emotional and unscripted speech at the end of the match, said: "First it's a thank-you to Manchester United, not just the directors, not just the medical staff, the coaching staff, the players, the support – it's all of you.

"You've been the most fantastic experience of my life. Thank you.

"My retirement doesn't mean the end of my life with the club. I will be able to enjoy watching them, rather than suffer with them. So, I am going home ... well, I am going inside for a while."

He also had a message to the fans about his replacement: "I'd like to remind you when we had bad times here, the club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me. Your job now is to stand by our new manager. That is important."

He also took time to wish Scotland captain Darren Fletcher a speedy recovery from the bowel condition that has debilitated him over the last two seasons.

After this speech, the United players and Sir Alex returned to collect their medals and the Premier League Trophy, the club's 20th top-flight crown.

One of the Manchester United stars who decided he did not want to play in Sir Alex's final game in charge was Wayne Rooney. Sir Alex said he did not think the England striker was keen to play in the last Old Trafford match of his reign, having put in a transfer request.