At times, it seems that Sir Alex Ferguson will go on forever as Manchester United manager, but eventually D-Day will arrive. And if reports are to be believed, this could be his last season, or at best second last, at Old Trafford. The moment Ferguson decides to finally hang up his boots, a decision that will surely be made sooner rather than later given he turns 70 at the end of this year, will mark the end of a golden era. Time has come for United's board to finally start working on who to appoint as Ferguson’s successor and whether that person can kick-start another era.
It has seemed clear for some time that while Ferguson will have a significant say about his successor, everything will not depend on him. The club CEO David Gill, Man United legend Sir Bobby Charlton and United's owners will also have their opinion. United, for sure, have no shortage of candidates, but replacing Ferguson will be one of their biggest challenges. And keeping in mind how football has changed in recent times, everyone, including fans and board, will want results and trophies instantly.
This space is not for saying it is time for Fergie to call it quits. It is simply a reminder to Man United fans across the world that one day he will retire. In that regard, here are the likely contenders to fill Ferguson’s role:
Jose Mourinho: One of the biggest favourites to be in charge at Old Trafford after Ferguson. The self-proclaimed 'Special One' – also recently known as the 'Only One' - has the charisma and personality to be an instant hit at Manchester United. One thing the Portugese’s guarantee at any club is silverware. He has also made clear his desire to return to the Premier League and enjoys a good relationship with Ferguson. Mourinho has a bigger personality as manager than anyone in world football and the mind games and wittiness he brings to the game are almost similar to Fergie's.
Pep Guardiola: Guardiola is currently on sabbatical having left Barcelona at the end of last season with a haul of 14 trophies in four years – an extraordinary achievement. What makes him favourite to succeed Fergie is that his style suits Manchester United’s way: fast-flowing and attacking. Barcelona, under Pep, were the team to beat for the last four years, and the way he develops young prodigies also works in his favour. Guardiola could also be one of the long-term options available at present, keeping in mind his age.
David Moyes: "David hasn't got the credit he deserves," Ferguson said in 2009. "When you take everything into consideration, he's done an incredible job at Everton." This statement makes it clear how highly Fergie rates him. He has shown all the necessary skills that a Manchester United manager would need. He has brought through youth players and built a good Everton side, even with limited transfer budget. If given a chance at the Theatre of Dreams, he would certainly not disappoint.
Laurent Blanc: Blanc, who spent two seasons at Old Trafford at the end of his playing career, was in the limelight when he coached Bordeaux before taking over the French national side. He has been quite a success with France and has handled big-ego players in the dressing room impressively. He took them over whilst they were in total disarray, following the fallout from their awful World Cup 2010 in South Africa, and then took them to a 24-match unbeaten run. Ferguson will surely consider his former student.