#thankyousiralex world’s top trending keyword

Twitter speculation Tuesday night confirmed with a single tweet Wednesday morning

Twitter reaction to the announcement of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson’s retirement was at its busiest at 9.34am yesterday, 17 minutes after the soccer club tweeted the news. Photograph: Reuters/Phil Noble

Reaction to the announcement by Manchester United that Alex Ferguson is to retire as manager of the soccer club dominated social media yesterday, with tweets peaking at more than 13,000 a minute shortly after the announcement.

Speculation grew from late Tuesday night that an announcement was imminent.

A tweet from the Daily Telegraph 's sports account at 10pm reported rumours that Ferguson was "giving serious consideration" to giving up the reins at the club.

Manchester United's press office refused to take media queries following the Telegraph tweet, fuelling online speculation that an announcement was imminent.


All eyes turned to the New York Stock Exchange, where Manchester United is publicly traded, for an announcement that would need to be made in advance of opening.

As a publicly traded company, any significant information relating to the operation of the football club must be released in advance of a day's trading.


The official confirmation of Ferguson's retirement came via the Manchester United press office's official Twitter account, which tweeted "Sir Alex Ferguson retires. #thankyousiralex".

That tweet, posted at 9:17am Wednesday, was retweeted more than 18,000 times in the first hour alone.

The hashtag “#thankyousiralex”, first used by Manchester United in that tweet, was repeated in tweets more than 100,000 times in that first hour.

In a blog post yesterday afternoon, Twitter UK's head of sport, Lewis Wiltshire, wrote that within an hour of the announcement by Manchester United on the social network, more than 1.4 million mentions of the retirement had been made by Twitter's users.

Twitter reaction was at its busiest in reaction to the announcement at 9.34am, 17 minutes after the Manchester United tweet, with the social network registering more than 13,000 tweets per minute.

Discussion around Ferguson’s retirement on Twitter dominated the social media network worldwide. Twitter’s trending list, which monitors the most popular keywords nationally and internationally, ranked eight of the top 10 UK trends as relating to Ferguson’s retirement. Worldwide, four of the top 10 trends were related.

The “#thankyousiralex” was the number one global trending keyword just eight minutes after being tweeted first.

Tributes on Twitter were led by soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, who played for United between 2003 and 2009. Ronaldo tweeted: "Thanks for everything, Boss" along with a photograph of him with Ferguson on Ronaldo's first day with Manchester United.

That tweet had been shared more than 5,000 times within five minutes of being posted, and more than 70,000 times by mid-afternoon yesterday.

Company's value

In New York, Manchester United plc’s shares opened down 4.7 per cent on the news of Ferguson’s retirement, wiping €93 million off the company’s value.

The tweets about Ferguson's retirement, according to Twitter, came predominantly from the UK, and then the US, Indonesia, Malaysia and Spain respectively, demonstrating the global reach not just of the self-styled "real-time information network" but also of the Manchester based, New York traded football club.

David Cochrane

David Cochrane

David Cochrane is the former social-strategy editor of The Irish Times