Speculation regarding the future of Sir Alex Ferguson has become something of a common topic for many pundits and journalists this season.
The curiosity of many football followers continues to grow as Ferguson's incredible career will one day have to come to an end.
Here are five managers that could be ready to replace him:
1) Ottmar Hitzfeld
Having won 18 major titles with a number of clubs, Hitzfeld will undoubtedly be remembered as a legend of the game. The former Bayern and Dortmund boss has annexed seven Bundesliga titles and two Champions League titles in the course of an impressive 30 year career. Surprisingly, Hitzfeld has never seriously been linked with any English club but Manchester United may well see an opportunity that is too good to pass up, with Hitzfeld now at his least high-profile job for many years as head coach of the Swiss National Team. The timing couldn't be better to approach the German-born coach, who has all the ingredients to manage at a club with a history as rich as United's.
2) David Moyes
Moyes is currently one of the favourites to succeed his fellow countryman at Old Trafford. The Everton boss' determination and work-ethic is unmatched and his uncompromising stance on contentious issues is something that mirrors Sir Alex's demeanour. David Moyes' knowledge and experience in the top flight of English football too can hardly be surpassed, given that all 11 years of his tenure at Everton so far have been spent in the English Premier League.
However, should Moyes eventually succeed Sir Alex, there would be a few rather concerned United supporters, given the fact that challenging for honours will be relatively unchartered territory for the Toffees' boss and he has never been involved in the Champions League proper, as a manager. If Moyes was to be appointed, it would certainly divide opinion amongst United fans.
3) Jupp Heynckes
While Sir Alex and the United Board clearly have been admiring the work going on behind the scenes in Bavaria, there has not been as much mention of the scintillating football the German giants have produced on the pitch over the last two years under the reign of Jupp Heynckes. Somehow the Bayern manager has escaped much of the praise that has been lavished on his team. Under Heynckes, Bayern have re-established supremacy in their homeland, seemingly breaking Bundesliga records on a weekly basis this season.
They were hailed for their powerful performances too in last season's UEFA Champions League, where they swept aside with relative ease some of the biggest clubs in Europe and were unlucky not to win the competition after defeat in a penalty shootout to a resolute Chelsea side. With the ratification of Guardiola as Bayern Head Coach in July, Heynckes will inevitably be chased by some of the top clubs in Europe in an attempt to persuade him not to retire.
4) Jose Mourinho
It would be impossible to compile a list of possible candidates for this job and not include the self-professed 'Special One'. There is not a club in the world who would not love to have Mourinho in their ranks. That is, of course, with the exception of his current club. Jose's relationship with the Madrid fans was never more than lukewarm. Now with 'Real' trailing Barcelona by 16 points and sitting behind Atletico Madrid in the table, the relationship between manager and fans has reached breaking point. The only thing that could restore harmony in the Bernabéu this season is a Champions League triumph.
However, even with that, Jose has expressed an unambiguous public desire to return to the Premier League. Despite their intense rivalry on the touchline, Ferguson and Mourinho share a very amicable relationship overall and if the choice were left to Sir Alex alone, then Jose would be the obvious decision. Although, with the managerial merry-go-round that is currently baffling and irritating Chelsea fans, one can never rule out a return to the Bridge for Mourinho.
5) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's name is never far removed from this debate and it easy to see why. His appointment as Reserve Team Coach at United was publicly endorsed by Sir Alex in 2008, making him the first full-time coach in two and a half years at the club.
On top of this, Soskjaer has received a lot of praise since winning the Norwegian Premier Division with Molde FK (the first in the club's history). Soskjaer and Ferguson are reportedly in constant contact and there is no doubt that 'The Baby-Faced-Assassin' would be a fans favourite at Old Trafford as manager.
He also has Champions League experience as a manager, which would surely be a prerequisite for the job. The fact that Soskjaer has learnt his trade as a manager under Ferguson would also be a major advantage to him. This method of 'learning the trade' so to speak, was adopted by Jose Mourinho (under Sir Bobby Robson) and Andre Villas-Boas (under Mourinho) who are just two examples of how this method of progression can produce exceptional managers.
However, as Ferguson says himself, the appointment of the next United manager may be a long way off because the fiery Scot still has as much passion as ever and is not quite ready yet to sit in the executive box at Old Trafford just yet.
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