Manchester United chief executive David Gill is dreading the day the club have to find a replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson, but he is confident the Scot will leave a strong foundation for his successor.
Ferguson celebrated 25 years at the helm of United at the weekend and has no intention of stepping down for now, but Gill is aware that day will come and knows they will be big boots to fill.
"It will be difficult to replace him - it's naive to say anything other than that," Gill said. "We are a great club whose values go back in history to our heritage to the '50s and '60s and the last 25 years with Alex. To continue with that, the new manager needs to understand those values and the vision for the club and must buy into that."
Ferguson has a gifted young squad at his disposal and Gill feels that whoever takes over will have the cream of the crop to work with.
Gill said: "The important point to make is the new manager, whenever that may be and whomever that may be, will be taking over a great, great club, in a great, great sport and Alex, in particular, will want to make sure he inherits a great squad. That's our goal - to make sure when the new manager comes in he does have a great squad to work with in terms of age and profile.
"Alex's legacy to United is to my mind very clear - delivering an unprecedented period of success in the Manchester United way. Within that, he's made sure he's cemented United's position as one of the top clubs in world football. We're very well respected clearly in this country and around the world."
Ferguson believes his emphasis on youth has ensured the players at the club understand its values, and is particularly proud of Cristiano Ronaldo's evolution while at Old Trafford.
"I believe in young people," Ferguson told Sirius XM. "You need a foundation at a football club and that is vital. You can build a first team, but you really do need the back-up and the foundation to make it a football club.''
He added: "With all the young players that come to us in their formative years, you have got a job to make them good footballers but also to show them how to grow up the right way.
"Cristiano came to us at 18, just a young lad from Portugal who didn't know the country, but he learned the language, adapted very well and he has turned out fantastically as a human being, just as was the case with the Nevilles, Scholes, Beckhams, Giggs and all those lads."