Sir Alex Ferguson will play a key role in the search for his eventual successor at Manchester United, and has reportedly identified Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as the leading contenders to replace him.

Ferguson's contract with the club runs for another three years but, with the Scot turning 71 in December, it would arrive as no great surprise if he decided to retire before then.

The United boss had initially planned to retire at the end of the 2001-02 season but reversed his decision after he felt that his announcement had disrupted the squad, and with no successor lined-up.

According to, Ferguson is keen to avoid a repeat scenario when he finally decides to end his time as manager, and wants to ensure plans are already in place before he leaves Old Trafford.

This will reportedly include having the casting vote in the appointment of the club's new manager, and Ferguson is said to consider Guardiola and Mourinho the only two serious candidates to replace him.

Guardiola is currently on sabbatical having left Barcelona at the end of last season with a haul of 14 trophies in four years, while Mourinho has made clear of his desire to return to the Premier League one day, and enjoys a good relationship with Ferguson.

Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs has also previously linked with the role, but it would appear Ferguson would rather an experienced coach would take the reins following his departure.

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