"The end result is that everyone plays really well for the team," Schmeichel said. "Yes, he can be hard, he can be tough. ... In a way he becomes your second dad. He has to educate you in life, he has to prepare you for what comes next in life after football."
'Vision, energy, ability'
David Gill, who will step down as chief executive of Manchester United in June, said it had been a "tremendous pleasure" to work alongside Ferguson over the past 16 years.
"We knew that his retirement would come one day and we both have been planning for it by ensuring the quality of the squad and club structures are in first class condition," he said.
"Alex's vision, energy and ability have built teams -- both on and off the pitch -- that his successor can count on as among the best and most loyal in world sport."
Ferguson began his career on the soccer pitch, playing for Scottish clubs Queen's Park, St. Johnstone, Dunfermline, Glasgow Rangers, Falkirk and Ayr United.
But it was when he returned to the game as a manager, working at East Stirlingshire, St. Mirren and then Aberdeen that people really began to take notice.
He led Aberdeen to three Scottish titles, four Scottish cups, one League Cup and one European Cup Winners' Cup before moving to Manchester United in November 1986 following the dismissal of former manager Ron Atkinson.
It didn't take long for the Scotsman to start turning things round at a club that was then near the bottom of the league.
Since then, Ferguson has dominated the English game -- his string of victories making him, according to the Manchester United website, "the most successful manager in British football history."