Only Mourinho has the clout to succeed Ferguson at Man Utd
Manchester United must pick Fergie's successor wisely - but has he already been chosen?
THE FOOTBALL world has been stunned by the announcement that Alex Ferguson is to step down as manager of Manchester United at the end of the season after 27 years at the helm.
The unexpected news prompted tributes from all quarters and a welter of speculation about who will take over from the most famous manager in world football, particularly as it was also revealed on Wednesday that Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea had hit a snag.
The Daily Mail reported that the Special One's "sensational move back to Chelsea could be on hold - paving the way for him to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United".
It explained that Blues owner Roman Abramovich had baulked at the buyout clause in the Real Madrid manager's contract. "The news will have special significance at Old Trafford, with Sir Alex Ferguson having ended his glittering 27-year reign at Old Trafford".
Eurosport claims that Mourinho has the right attributes to take over. "Putting aside footballing concerns or the nature of the club, he is quite simply the choice that would make most sense to global stock markets - and that, ultimately, will probably tip the balance in his favour," it explains. "He also has a good relationship with Ferguson, who is sure to have a big say in the naming of his successor."
Everton boss David Moyes remains the bookies' favourite to succeed Ferguson with odds of just 11/10. But not everyone believes the Scot is the right man for the job. Moyes would be the nearest thing to a "like-for-like replacement" for Ferguson, says Eurosport, but adds: "There's a huge difference between running a relatively impoverished club and running the world's most valuable sports franchise."
Writing before the news of Ferguson's departure broke, the Daily Mirror noted: "United want their next manager to have a proven track record at the highest level, which means success in the Champions League and trophies, which is currently a glaring omission from Moyes's CV and is likely to rule him out of the job."
Other names being linked with the job include Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund, and former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is now in charge at Norwegian club Molde. There has also been talk that other veteran United players, including Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, could take up coaching positions at the club.
Sky City editor Mark Kleinman added to the intrigue with a series of tweets in which he claimed United had already identified the man who would take over. "Manchester United source tells me Sir Alex Ferguson's successor will be announced within days but has to resign from current role first," he wrote.
That does not rule out either Moyes or Mourinho, both of who are currently with other clubs.
Whoever takes over will have a tough job on their hands and the succession is fraught with danger, writes Jim White in the Daily Telegraph. "When Sir Matt Busby retired in 1969, the club did almost everything wrong in its succession planning," he says, arguing that in order to avoid a repeat Ferguson must step out of the limelight.
"There can be no lurking in the corridors... He has to go completely, turning up only occasionally in the directors' box, benevolently ruffling hair and signing autographs."
Whether that fits with Ferguson's new role as director and ambassador remains to be seen. "But to maintain the club's two-decade long momentum, they need a strong, experienced manager, one sufficiently robust in his self-esteem not to wilt as he stands in the technical area at Old Trafford with his predecessor's name written across the top of the stand."