Sir Alex Ferguson has stated that there is no chance of him moving on from Manchester United, even if his side win the Premier League this season.
Speculation has been brewing that Ferguson, who celebrated his 71st birthday on New Year’s Eve, may choose to stand down at the end of the current Premier League campaign if he wrests the title back from Manchester City.
But as he watched his side beat Wigan Athletic 4-0 today to stay seven points clear of their near neighbours – who lost Sergio Aguero for two weeks to a hamstring strain – Ferguson made it clear that he is not ready to retire.
With Pep Guardiola due to end his post-Barcelona sabbatical next summer, Jose Mourinho tipped to leave Real Madrid and David Moyes’ Everton contract ready to expire, three of the major candidates to replace Ferguson could be available at the end of the current campaign.
But even after more than 26 years in the job at Old Trafford, Ferguson is insistent he is staying put “for a bit of time”.
It is widely accepted that few will get to know when Ferguson is ready to call it a day, with the United chief executive, David Gill, the man tasked with advising the Glazer family about a replacement.
And, though Guardiola, Mourinho and Moyes are bound to be at the top of the list if they are available, Ferguson highlighted the precarious nature of football management and stated further consideration was impossible.
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “Over the years, names have been bandied about but football is such a precarious industry. You could be talking about one of the potentially exciting young managers in the game, but is he going to be here in two or three years’ time? The sack race is horrendous.
“Sometimes a manager can only survive four games if he doesn’t win a match. Top managers will always be in demand but nobody knows where they are going to be in two or three years’ time.”
Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie each scored twice against Wigan, and for Ferguson, the latter’s performance served as a reminder that he was fortunate to gain the services of the striker last summer, rather than City.
“We knew we were getting a top player who would make a difference to the team,” said Ferguson. “That is why we went for him. Robin is a completely rounded footballer. He has great international experience, he’s played for Arsenal for seven years and he came to us at the very peak of his career.
“His ability to make and take goals is fantastic. His play for his first goal was absolutely magnificent, his turn, his balance, no drawback, just side-footed it in. It was a really good goal.”
Hernandez’s double means he takes his tally for the season to 12 and Ferguson added: “Since Javier came, he has shown he is a penalty-box player. He is tremendous. He latches on to things. He is brilliant.”
The win meant United completed the festive period with a 10-point haul and Ferguson said this weekend’s FA Cup tie against West Ham would give him a chance to rest some key men.
“We will make a few changes for the cup tie,” said Ferguson. “We took Michael Carrick off as soon as we got the third goal. They deserve a break and they have played in all the games. We’ll have a look at the situation. We’ve got plenty of players to freshen it up.”
Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, admitted that the game was a “mismatch”, given the paucity of their resources compared to United’s.
“We didn’t have the legs or the reaction and you have to congratulate Manchester United,” he said. “They had the luxury of making changes and Van Persie and Hernandez looked brighter and sharper. In the end, it was a mismatch.”
City’s hopes of gaining ground on their Manchester rivals in the next few weeks have taken a hit after Aguero suffered a hamstring strain in yesterday’s 3-0 win over Stoke. The Argentine was forced off moments after scoring City’s third goal, after strikes from Pablo Zabaleta and Edin Dzeko, and is almost certain to miss Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Watford.