The 70-year-old Scot was presented with the award by FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the FIFA Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich.
Blatter said: "Elite football is all about results and winning and there is no one better at it than him.
"His first major success came at Aberdeen in 1983 but what is absolutely extraordinary is that in a world in which coaches are expected to produce instant results or be changed, his longevity is a shining example of what can be achieved through stability, continuity, investment in development and especially in trust and confidence in the personality himself.
"He has earned a knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen for services to the game. This exceptional personality in football has been managing the same club for 25 years - can you imagine that today?"
Ferguson himself praised Manchester United for sharing his vision of the game.
He said: "It is an honour for me in the twilight of my life and very, very much appreciated.
"I have been a very, very lucky manager to have had so many good players who have shared my vision and passion, and that's what makes Manchester United such a special club.
"They retain the courage to play, the courage to try and win. You don't always win in football - sometimes you lose but we always try to win."