End of an era at Man Utd, Giggs and Scholes set to retire
Veteran players may hang up their boots but will Ferguson also stand aside in the summer?
COULD it be the end of an era at Old Trafford? Speculation that Alex Ferguson's Manchester United reign is drawing to a close is starting to gather pace and now it has been claimed that veterans Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand could leave the club at the end of the season.
According to the Daily Mail, Scholes is set to retire for a second time in 2013, two years after he first hung up his boots. The 38-year-old, who made his debut in 1994, "believes that his influence on the field is waning and has said privately in recent weeks that he may have given as much as he can," says the paper.
Giggs, who is 39, harbours similar concerns and he too may call it a day at the end of the current campaign. He is the only player who has played in every season of the Premier League.
It is unclear what the future holds for the two veterans, but the Mail forsees different paths for them. "Giggs hopes to compete in a couple of triathlons and Scholes may be handed a coaching role at Old Trafford," it says.
Defender Ferdinand, who is a relatively youthful 34, has yet to agree a new contract at Old Trafford and he too could leave. The Mail reports that Ferguson is eyeing up potential replacements.
The loss of three stalwarts would affect United, but not as much as the departure of Ferguson, who has been in charge at Old Trafford since 1986. But the Scot is now 70 and there have been a number of stories already this season linking other managers, who will be available in the summer, with his job.
Yesterday United were drawn with Real Madrid in the Champions League and that game has now been set up as Jose Mourinho's 'audition' for the Old Trafford job. The Portuguese, who used to manage Chelsea, is not expected to remain at Real Madrid beyond the summer.
The other candidate is Pep Guardiola, the former Barcelona boss, who is on a sabbatical from football in America. He is tipped to return to management in 2013 and is said to have already met with Ferguson.