David Gill, Manchester United's chief executive, has admitted the club will seek the opinion of Sir Alex Ferguson before naming his successor when the Old Trafford manager finally retires.
Ferguson, 66, continues to leave observers guessing as to his likely departure date from Old Trafford.
Having been at the helm since November 1986, when he succeeded Ron Atkinson, Ferguson recently confessed that he did not anticipate being in the job beyond his 70th birthday.
Several high-profile managers, including Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz and Manchester City boss Mark Hughes — both with strong United connections — have been touted as possible candidates to succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford.
But Gill admits that, when the time comes to name a new boss, reigning English and European champions United will ensure that Ferguson, currently with his squad on a pre-season tour of South Africa, has an input into selecting his replacement in the hot seat.
“We will address that (Ferguson's successor) when it comes around, but the club's owners (the Glazer family), myself and the people involved will obviously get Sir Alex's views on the subject,” Gill said.
“Somebody who has managed the club for so many years, who knows the club inside out and knows what is required would be invaluable.
“It would be remiss of us not to have a discussion with him, involve him and get his views, so he will be a key part of the process.”
He added: “The owners will expect me to do the work and then they would get involved in the process of choosing the right man, but the board will ultimately make the decision on the new manager.
“It will be a big change and, without putting a deadline on it, that time is getting closer.
“It would be naive to think it won't be a big change, but we are trying to put things in place that will make it as easy as we can. Alex is aware of that.
“You don't work here for 20 years without falling in love with the club and he would like to make sure that he does what he can to make sure it is successful after he has gone.”
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