Bookmakers have slashed the odds on David Moyes replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford as rumours grew that the Everton boss is to spend a season as the United manager’s understudy.
It is seen as a perfect way for a future United manager to learn the ropes at the club while working closely with Ferguson, before the 71-year-old finally retires from the game.
Everton are likely to finish above rivals Liverpool for the second successive season – the first time they have achieved that in the top flight since 1937.
Moyes’s Everton contract runs out in the summer and no agreement has been reached over a new deal.
The 50-year-old has previously said that he wanted to wait until the end of this campaign before deciding whether to extend his time at Goodison Park into a 12th year.
Moyes was linked with a move to Chelsea earlier this season, but a return of the Special One Jose Mourinho is the favoured option of owner Roman Abramovich.
Ferguson seems revitalised at Old Trafford with a young squad who he believes have the chance to replicate the Treble-winning side of 1999 – but even he cannot manage United for ever.
In his programme notes before United played Chelsea in the league on Sunday, Ferguson wrote: ‘I don’t have any plans at the moment to walk away from what I believe is going to be something special.’
It is believed Ferguson was going to retire at the end of last season, before Manchester City stole the title in the final moments of one of the most dramatic and spectacular climaxes to a season, courtesy of an added-time goal from striker Sergio Aguero.
It is astonishing to remember he was set to retire at the end of the 2001-02 season. At the time he had won 14 major trophies at United – in the subsequent 11 seasons he has added a dozen more.
Next season will be Ferguson’s 27th in English football and whoever ultimately takes over at Old Trafford, his legacy is certainly secure.