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Man United renames north stand after Ferguson

LONDON (Reuters) -- The north stand at Old Trafford was renamed 'The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand' on Saturday in recognition of his achievements during his 25 years as Manchester United's manager.

The club is also commissioning a statue of the 69-year-old Scot who has brought 37 trophies to United since he took over from Ron Atkinson on Nov. 6 1986.

It will be unveiled outside the stand before the start of next season and will be the third statue erected at the ground following the one commemorating former manager Matt Busby and the "Holy Trinity" statue of their legendary players George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton.

Ferguson was given a guard of honour by the players of both Manchester United and Sunderland as he walked on to the Old Trafford pitch on Saturday and looked overwhelmed as United's chief executive David Gill announced the honour to the crowd.

The fans gave him a standing ovation as his name was unveiled at the top of the stand and he told them of his pride working for "the best club in the world."

After the match, which United won 1-0, he told Sky Sports he had no idea the stand was being re-named in his honour.

"I never expected that, it was a real surprise, I'm so proud and honoured and have to thank Manchester United for doing that, it was very good of them."

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He said he thought his players may have been affected by the occasion because they did not play all that well, despite the victory.

"Sometimes these emotional occasions, which it was today, for me in particular, get through to them."

Earlier he wrote in his programme notes: "It has all been a fairytale dream -- give or take the occasional nightmare."

That could have been a reference to United's last league match at Old Trafford, which ended in a 6-1 defeat by Manchester City.

A huge banner was on display in the ground reading: "The Impossible Dream, Sir Alex Ferguson Made Possible."

Steve Bruce, now the manager of visitors Sunderland who was in the United team when Ferguson led the club to their first English title for 26 years in 1993, added in his tribute: "There will never be another manager like Sir Alex."

Among the many tributes to Ferguson was one from Barcelona's manager Pep Guardiola, tipped as a possible successor when he eventually retires.

Speaking in Barcelona, Guardiola said: "I'd like to congratulate him and tip my hat. I'd like to have the ability, like him, to always be able to re-build my team around competitive players."