United silent as Ferguson arrives
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson arrived at the club's training ground early on Wednesday morning as speculation grows about his future.
Reports in the Daily Telegraph have suggested that Ferguson, 71, is ready to step down this summer, the news coming just days after the club announced he is likely to miss the start of the 2013-14 season after hip surgery.
At present there has been silence from the corridors of power at Old Trafford, with the lack of a swift rebuttal of such significant news story only fuelling rumours that a man who has spent a trophy-laden 27 years at the club could be about to quit. Ferguson arrived at the club's Carrington complex at 7am BST ahead of the squad's annual trip to Chester Racecourse on Wednesday.
With the club now floated on the New York Stock Exchange it is expected that the club will have to make some form of statement about their manager by the time the Exchange opens at 2pm BST.
The rumours gained momentum on Tuesday, with a United golf day allegedly overshadowed by speculation about the Scot's future.
Both The Times and The Telegraph cite sources close to the first-team squad saying that the United players have been told to ready themselves for a "significant announcement" from their manager.
Bookmakers have closes markets on Ferguson's retirement, as well as David Moyes being his immediate successor. It has also been mooted, however, that any announcement may just see a stand-in installed until the 71-year-old recovers from a July hip operation around the end of August.
United have long been attempting to put a framework in place so that the succession is as smooth as possible - and avoids the chaos of the post-Matt Busby era, when the legendary manager moved into a director of football role before later returning to take the managerial reins.
A pre-Christmas board meeting led to an understanding that Ferguson would not leave until 2015, and Ferguson recently stated that he will not be vacating his position with the Red Devils anytime soon.
However, there have already been informal meetings with potential future candidates. Ferguson, David Gill and one of the Glazer family met Pep Guardiola in New York in October, before the Catalan agreed to take over at Bayern Munich.
Despite Ferguson's personal enthusiasm about the future appointment of Guardiola, he is known to have been a huge admirer of Moyes and feels he has many of the qualities necessary to take over at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho is not expected to be in the frame, though, with a high-ranking Stamford Bridge source telling ESPN that the the Portuguese is "virtually certain" to replace Rafael Benitez in the next two months, and there is too little leverage room for United to attempt any kind of late high-profile coup. However, it is understood that Roman Abramovich is balking at paying any buy-out clause, which may leave an opening for United.
Ferguson announced his intention to retire in 2002 before changing his mind and going on to win a further six Premier League titles, with this year's championship crown his 13th in all with the club.