'Sir Alex will be manager for years to come' - Gill
Manchester United chief executive David Gill has confirmed Sir Alex Ferguson will remain Red Devils manager 'for many years to come'.
In the wake of United's disastrous exit from the Champions League group phase and their total failure to mount any major resistance to Chelsea's title charge, many pundits believed Ferguson's 19-year reign would be brought to an end in the summer.
The Scot, who celebrated his 64th birthday on New Year's Eve, has never given any indication of a willingness to quit but the relative lack of success in recent years has prompted some observers to question his long-term future, especially since the Malcolm Glazer takeover.
Even Sven-Goran Eriksson, lined up to replace Ferguson when he initially announced plans to retire in 2002, has had his say, telling the notorious 'Fake Sheikh' the United boss should have called it a day in the wake of the club's momentous 1999 Treble-winning campaign.
However, as the man charged by Glazer with the day-to-day running of Old Trafford, it would be Gill's responsibility to tell Ferguson his time is up.
And he insists such a decision is not about to be made. On the contrary, it seems Ferguson could be around for a long time yet.
'I think that is right,' said Gill, when asked on BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme whether Ferguson had the job for as long as he wanted it.
'Alex has the full support of everyone at the club. He has the energy, enthusiasm and appetite to ensure we get back up there challenging for the league.
'I am not really interested in Sven's opinion. He has no say in what we do.
'Sir Alex has been the best Manchester United manager, if not the best manager in European football and we are looking forward.
'We have spent a significant sum of money in the January transfer window and we will spend again in the summer, so Sir Alex Ferguson will be here for many years to come.'
Gill refused to be drawn on any discussion over a potential successor for Ferguson.
Aside from Eriksson, Arsene Wenger, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Martin O'Neill have all been linked with the post at various times, along with Ferguson's current number two Carlos Queiroz.
But, as Gill points out, the transient nature of football makes choosing a replacement so far out from when the decision has to be made totally pointless.
'I have no thoughts on the long-term planning,' he said.
'It is very difficult. Who is doing well now might not be doing well in a few years' time. In that sense, football is not like a lot of other businesses.'
After splashing out £12million on defensive duo Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic, Gill confirmed there will be no more additions to the United squad this month.
The Red Devils do remain in the market for one - or possibly two - central midfield men, an area of obvious weakness in the current squad following the stunning departure of Roy Keane.
But, with both Michael Ballack and Thomas Gravesen ruled out on age grounds, Ferguson will wait until the summer before pursuing his main targets.
'It is well trawled we are looking for midfield players and it is recognised we need to strengthen that department of the club,' said Gill.
'We will do that and the money will be made available.'
Although Ferguson was able to approach this afternoon's Premiership encounter with Liverpool with no short-term worries over his position, Gill does acknowledge the current run of third-place league finishes is not deemed acceptable.
Without a collapse of unprecedented proportions by Chelsea, United will end the season without the title for the third successive season - the first time since 1992 they have gone three years without a championship.
And, while Gill was not prepared to state Ferguson must end that record next term, he is demanding at least a much stronger challenge than the present one, which was effectively over by the end of October.
'There are no specific targets but I am not saying it is all satisfactory and we can keep finishing third and fourth every year,' he said.
'We would like the league to be a lot closer. So would Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham.
'Let's not get carried away and say we have a lot of rebuilding to do.
'We know we have to improve the midfield and we will do that but I am confident we won't be far away next season.'