Fifty years to the day after his professional football career began, Sir Alex Ferguson is receiving a lot of praise for the remarkable things he has achieved. Future captain, Rio Ferdinand, believes that replacing him will be a massive task, although thinks if any club is capable of bringing the right man in, Manchester United are.

“They’re big shoes to fill, aren’t they?” Ferdinand said. “Who’s going to fill them? I wouldn’t like to say, but the club will have to work really hard to find someone capable of taking over. It’s not like bringing in another player, it’s a different dimension altogether. Our manager’s record is untouchable, so to replace someone like him after so long is going to be really difficult. But if any club can it’s United.”

Ferdinand reckons that the manager has chilled out a bit in the past few years, although still keeps the players on their toes.

“The boss has mellowed since I’ve been at United but don’t believe the hype too much,” he added. “When it’s time for home truths to be said, he’ll tell you, in no uncertain terms, right between the eyes. He tells you ‘this is the way it goes, this is how it is’ and if you don’t do as he says, you’re in serious trouble or on your way. There’s a few of us who have had rude awakenings from him in the mornings, at training and a half-time, so there’s still fire burning within him and that won’t go until he decides the time is right for him to go. As players we can’t afford to think about what’s going to happen in a year or two. We have to concentrate on the here and now. Of course it’s in the back of our minds, but thankfully it seems a million miles away right now.”