Neville backs Ferguson for another decade at United

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson has not considered retirement once since changing his mind on his decision to leave Old Trafford in 2002, and even on the cusp of his 20th anniversary as Manchester United manager his focus remains fixed on the future - as Gary Neville has emphasised by claiming the 64-year-old may remain in his post for the next decade.

With a prediction that will enthral his followers and appal his detractors in equal measure, the United captain insisted Ferguson is intent on bringing his latest exciting team to fruition in both the Premiership and Champions' League and, with eight League titles, five FA Cups and a European Cup on his CV, had earned the right to depart on a date and in a manner of his choosing.

"Why should he leave? He feels as determined as ever," said Neville. "It is a continual challenge to be at this club and that will keep him young. He knows how to make the club successful. We have been developing a new side with a lot of young players and, hopefully, this season we can bear the fruits of that. It would not surprise me if he went on for another five to 10 years. It would be great to get to the end of my career under one manager."

As a first-team regular for 14 years and a lifelong United supporter, Neville is well-placed to assess the impact Ferguson has had on Old Trafford since his arrival and, while he unsurprisingly cites the treble of 1999 as the Scot's greatest achievement - "Probably the greatest by any club in English football," he claimed - the 31-year-old credits the manager's ruthlessness with transforming the nature and image of the club.

"When he first came here, Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath were heroes to Manchester United fans but they left soon after he arrived. He changed the culture of the club," said Neville. "There is no sentiment and that has ensured his continued success. He almost sees the end for players before they see it themselves and 100 per cent of the time he has been proved correct.

"What Alex Ferguson did was to take the club to a level it should be at, winning championships and FA Cups and being involved in the European Cup. He will tell you himself that this is the minimum of what this club should achieve. It is disgraceful to think that this club did not win the League for 26 years. It is an embarrassment with the resources available."

Despite their lengthy relationship, Neville admits he is not close to the United manager. Nevertheless, he knows a different side to Ferguson from his gruff public image.

He said: "Certainly as a young player, you are wary of him and when he walks in the room everybody does go a bit quiet. There is an aura about him. But when you have been at United for 14 years, you do recognise the personal side to him. I wouldn't say I am close to him but I know I can go into his office and see him.

"If you are in trouble, that is the door you knock on. You might have something in your personal life and he will listen. That's where he wins respect. People looking in might think he has got performances out of his players through fear but it's more than that. He has been a father figure to his players."