'I'm not retiring' vows Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson has already seen off a few pretenders to his Manchester United throne - and he intends to repel a few more even though he will celebrate his 70th birthday later this year.
It will be 25 years since Ferguson was appointed United manager on November 6. It is also nearly a decade since he performed an abrupt U-turn on his retirement plans. What has followed, in addition to five more Premier League titles and another Champions League triumph, has been a guessing game about when Ferguson will eventually call it a day.
Speaking about the prospects for his eventual successor to the Italian media at an awards ceremony at University of Rome Tor Vergata, Ferguson said: "I think you would need someone very experienced in the long term. But I have absolutely no idea... first of all, I'm not retiring."
At various times, Bryan Robson, Steve McClaren, Mark Hughes, Martin O'Neill and a host of top continental bosses have been linked with the job. Current favourite to replace Ferguson is Jose Mourinho, although a mounting disciplinary crime sheet at Real Madrid is not helping his cause.
"Over the years I've had the question who do I think could replace me?" the Scot continued. "Now in those years, some of the coaches they were talking about to replace me don't have jobs any more. So it becomes very difficult because someone who I think has potential may be sacked by his club and disappear.
With Arsene Wenger's crown slipping badly in recent times, Ferguson is unquestionably the most powerful manager in England. At United, his authority over team matters is absolute.
It is impossible to imagine any player being bought or sold without his agreement, although he does not always get his man.
"There's only one certainty: I will always be in charge," he said. "I wanted Maldini. I asked his dad Cesare about Paolo and he told me I was crazy."
Nobody told Ferguson he was crazy for trying to sign Wesley Sneijder in the summer and for a long time, even the Dutchman thought he would end up at Old Trafford. Eventually, Ferguson decided the sums did not add up given he was not the like-for-like replacement for Paul Scholes he had been after.
"Sneijder is not the ideal replacement for Scholes," he said. "He's a fantastic player but he was not who we were looking for to replace Scholes. Only Xavi and Iniesta are comparable to Scholes."
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