"In football terms, the king had died."
Ferguson coached Scotland at the 1986 World Cup, but the team headed home after the first round following a group phase campaign which yielded just one point.
After watching the pressures of football get the better of his mentor, it raises the question of whether Stein's death played a role in Ferguson's decision to bow out on his own terms.
FA Cup redemption
After a trophy-laden spell at Pittodrie with Aberdeen, Ferguson headed south to join United in 1986, but his early days at Old Trafford were a world away from the glorious success he enjoyed in the 1990s and 2000s.
Two seasons passed without a trophy and after eight league games without a win, it was suggested Ferguson would be sacked if United lost an FA Cup replay against Nottingham Forest on January 7 1990 .
Substitute Mark Robins scored the winner to send United into the next round and, allegedly, save Fergie's job.
Ferguson went on to mastermind a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in an FA Cup final replay after the first match finished 3-3 to secure the Scot's first trophy at Old Trafford.
The silverware continued to flow, with an English Premier League title -- the club's first in 26 years -- arriving in 1993.
Ferguson's retirement was originally scheduled for 11 years ago. The Scot announced in 2001 that the forthcoming season would be his last, hoping his decision to break the news in advance would allow the club to make suitable succession plans.
But it had the opposite effect and, by November 2001, defending champions United sat ninth in the Premier League table.
By January 2002, after an eight-match winning run, United had risen to the top of the table and the next month Ferguson reversed his decision to retire from the game by signing a new three-year contract at Old Trafford.
The rest, as they say, is history. Six further English titles have followed, along with an FA Cup triumph and the Champions League in 2008.
The Flying Boot
In addition to the trophies and the accolades, there have been plenty of spats, with numerous star players feeling the heat of Ferguson's infamous "hairdryer" treatment.
Notably when a "one in a million" flying boot caught David Beckham above the left eye, an incident which dominated the headlines like no other flare up between Ferguson and one of his charges.
Following a 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal in February 2003, Ferguson launched a tirade at his star midfielder which, according to Beckham's autobiography, went along the lines of "David, what about the second goal? What were you doing? . . . We told you about it before the game. The problem with you is you don't let anyone talk to you. You don't listen'.
"I felt like I was being bullied in public," explained Beckham, who now plays for Paris Saint-Germain. "I was being backed into a corner for no other reason than spite. I was trapped."
Beckham swore at Ferguson and bedlam ensued.
"The boss took a step or two towards me," Beckham continued. "There was a boot on the floor. He swung his leg and kicked it. At me? At the wall? It could have been anywhere, he was that angry now.
"I went for the gaffer. I don't know if I've ever lost control like that before. Suddenly it was like some mad scene out of a gangster movie."
Beckham's teammates held him back, but after the incident, the then England captain appeared with a medical dressing over the cut above his eye.
"It was a freakish incident," Ferguson reportedly said. "If I tried it 100 or a million times it couldn't happen again. If I could I would have carried on playing!"
An increasingly tempestuous relationship between the two personalities came to an end on 1 July 2003, when Beckham left Manchester United to join Real Madrid.