Football: Ferguson could retire from United in 2003

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The Independent Online
ALEX FERGUSON may retire as Manchester United manager in 2003. United are due to open contract negotiations with Ferguson over a new deal to replace his agreement which expires in the summer of 2000.

Ferguson, 57, who has been in charge of Manchester United since 1986, is now hinting he will step down when he is 61.

"Who knows? I may ride off into the sunset in four years time," he said yesterday.

Ferguson is already by far the longest-serving manager in the Premier League and to stay until 2003 would take him just almost 17 years at Old Trafford.

Ferguson is not the only United figure intent on remaining at the club well into the millennium. The Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is determined to see out the remaining five years of his seven-year contract with the Reds, despite West Ham's reported interest in him.

Solskjaer would fill the void at Upton Park left by John Hartson's record pounds 7.5m move to Wimbledon. The striker is on the sidelines at Old Trafford and the Norway manager, Nils Johan Semb, has already warned him that his international career will be at risk if he is not playing regular first- team football.

But Solskjaer, who turned down a pounds 5.5m move to Tottenham in August, is determined to stay at United and fight for his place. He said yesterday: "If I had been at any other club but United then I think I would have gone to the manager and asked to leave. But I want to stay here and win things."

Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole have established themselves as United's first choice strike pairing, but Solskjaer is prepared to wait for his chance. He added: "The manager can see it is a frustrating time for me and he also knows I am determined to get my place back and work for the team. If anyone gets injured, and I hope they don't, then I am ready to come on. We want to win things this year and this is the way to do it. If you want to stay at Manchester United and win trophies and be successful then you have to work through the reserve games and that is what I am doing."

Meanwhile, the winger David Beckham is receiving treatment for his groin injury as he tries to recover in time for Sunday's FA Cup fourth round game with Liverpool at Old Trafford. Ferguson has played down the seriousness of the problem after the England midfielder limped off during the second half of Teddy Scott's testimonial game against Aberdeen. The United midfielder Nicky Butt has been given the all-clear to play at the weekend after he pulled out of Saturday's game against Leicester suffering from a migraine.

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