Sir Alex Ferguson will be given the opportunity to anoint his successor as Manchester United manager after the club's chief executive, David Gill, confirmed that the club's owners, the Glazer family, plan to seek the opinion and advice of the 66-year-old when he finally announces his retirement at Old Trafford.
Ferguson, who recently suggested that he would spend no more than "two to three years" at the helm, has previously dismissed the possibility that he could play a part in identifying the man to follow him into the manager's office.
Carlos Queiroz, who left his post as Ferguson's assistant to become the Portugal head coach earlier this month, will be a leading contender to succeed Ferguson, having earned high praise from the Scot in the wake of United's Premier League and Champions League success last season. Manchester City's new manager Mark Hughes, the Italy coach Marcelo Lippi and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho are also understood to be rated highly by Ferguson.
With the United hierarchy having not made a managerial appointment since Ferguson's arrival from Aberdeen in November 1986, however, Gill admits that Ferguson's input will play a key role when it comes to replacing the most successful manager in the club's history.
Gill said: "There are no discussions at the moment about a successor. We will address that when it comes around, but the owners, myself and the people involved will obviously get Sir Alex's views on the subject. Somebody who has managed the club for so many years, who knows the club inside out and knows what is required would be invaluable. It would be remiss of us not to have a discussion with him, involve him and get his views, so he will be a key part of the process.
"The manager is a key employee of the club and we need to get it right. The owners will expect me to do the work and then they would get involved in the process of choosing the right man, but the board will ultimately make the decision on the new manager."
Succeeding Ferguson has often been described as an impossible job due to the immense success the club has enjoyed during his 22 years in charge. Yet Gill insists that the long-term planning that is already taking place, with Ferguson playing a central role, will ensure that the new man will have everything at his disposal to continue – and build on – Ferguson's success.
Gill said: "It will be a big change and, without putting a deadline on it, that time is getting closer. When I joined in 1997, Alex had already been here 11 years and when I went to meetings it was the key question then.
"What we have to do is plan the team appropriately and make sure it is the right age etc, so that anyone coming in, even though they would want to make their own changes, would not need to rock the boat too much.
"It would be naive to think it won't be a big change, but we are trying to put things in place that will make it as easy as we can. Alex is aware of that. You don't work here for 20 years without falling in love with the club and he would like to make sure that he does what he can to make sure it is successful after he has gone.
"The players will be of the right age and will be motivated and he won't want the work he has done to go to waste."
l Three Manchester United teenagers are flying out to South Africa to join the squad. The defender Craig Cathcart (19) has been drafted in as well as the midfielders Tom Cleverly (18) and Rodrigo Possebon (19). The trio have all played for the reserves and will link up with United, who play their final game in the Vodacom Challenge tomorrow in Pretoria. Then the squad will move on to Nigeria for a friendly against Portsmouth on Sunday before flying back to Manchester.
India could be next market as Gill looks to spread word
Manchester United are considering offers to play in India next summer after being approached to become the first leading Premier League club to visit the world's emerging financial powerhouse.
United, currently on their pre-season tour of South Africa, are due to visit Asia and the Far East in July 2009 and the club's chief executive, David Gill, admits that the club are drawn by the appeal of taking the European champions to the subcontinent.
Bayern Munich played in front of a 120,000 crowd in Calcutta two months ago and interest in the Premier League is understood to be growing at a fast rate. And with United keen to consolidate their brand name across the globe, Gill has revealed that India is high on the club's priority list. He said: "India is interesting. We have been approached to go there and we are looking at some soccer school opportunities there. I know Chelsea have done something and I think Barcelona have. We would not rule out going there.
"They [India] do have ambitions and have a key goal to make it to the World Cup. Whether they can make it or not, I do not know, but it's a huge, huge country. Look at [cricket's] IPL. That has shown that it is a very wealthy country and it is definitely worth looking at. Other clubs will look at it and so will we.
"The interest in football around the world is increasing. It is not saturated. We have worked on our global position for many years, but it would be wrong to think that we are impregnable. If we did that, then we would get knocked off our perch."
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