Manchester United's Ryan Giggs is set to become the first individual to complete the mandatory qualification for Premier League and Champions League managers while still playing, sending a clear signal that he aspires to manage the club one day.
The Independent reported last year that Sir Alex Ferguson had told United that he believes Giggs can be his successor as manager when he finally walks away from Old Trafford and the 39-year-old has laid down a marker by reaching Uefa Pro Licence level even before his playing days have finished. Giggs has had to work through his 'B' and 'A' licences to reach the elite standard, required by anyone who wants to manage in a top division or the Champions League.
Giggs, who has decided to take the course under the aegis of the Football Association at St George's Park rather than of the Football Association of Wales, will undertake 240 hours of study to gain the qualification – including spending three days at a European club and making a detailed case study of a business. He is expected to secure the qualification within the next 12 months after a period at Warwick University's Business School. He will need leave of absence from Ferguson just to succeed at Pro Licence level. His former team-mates Gary Neville and Paul Ince have been among the 20 other students embarking on the qualification.
Inevitably, Giggs cites Ferguson as his mentor and the manager is likely to have allowed him to work with United's young players as part of the practical element of the course.
During the initial part of the course Giggs has been introduced to a former SAS soldier, Floyd Woodrow – one of the youngest individuals to join the regiment – who specialises in sport team building and has worked both with golfers and young footballers on aspects of performance and vision.
The United chief executive, David Gill, has said that Ferguson's view on his own successor will be crucial. Pep Guardiola's decision to take on the Bayern Munich role removes one of the prime candidates. Though the Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho, is perceived as another, United will look for a replacement who understands and appreciates the philosophy of the club.
Meanwhile, the United midfielder Shinji Kagawa has said that he needs to bolster his mental strength. "I'm really feeling that I need to perform better. I'm not satisfied with what I have done here at all," he said. "I need to overcome lots of pressures and be mentally stronger."