Manchester United's chief executive, David Gill, has said the club will not fire the gun on the race to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson until the 65-year-old manager gives a date for his retirement. Ferguson, currently on a rolling one-year contract, has made it clear he will not declare a retirement date publicly, having previously announced his intention to go at the end of the 2001-02 season only to change his mind midway through that campaign.
Despite Ferguson suggesting last season that he will "just go"' when he finally decides to retire, Gill admits that no plans have been drawn up or shortlists compiled in an effort to ensure a smooth transition at the club.
"We will cross that bridge when we come to it," he said, "but we haven't even discussed it yet.
"It's not like a normal business where you can plan. It is about who is in vogue. You can have ideas of another manager who you think is great and then a season later he's out of favour. Stuart Pearce, for example, was touted as the next England manager and then suddenly he loses his job [at Manchester City].
"You keep abreast of the situation, but it doesn't take up any of my time. That may sound strange but that's the way it is.
"We believe we're building a first-class squad with Sir Alex and the age of the squad is really good. As he said the other day, he will, ultimately, retire, and at that point the squad that his successor inherits will hopefully be an extremely good squad."
Two former United players, Mark Hughes and Roy Keane, are both seen as front runners to succeed Ferguson having impressed at Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland respectively, but Gill admits that United's recent return to prominence underlines Ferguson's continuing hunger and ambition.
"We recognised that 2005-06 was a difficult season and that Chelsea were way ahead, but it always looks a bit more out of control and doom and gloom from the outside. You get those phases and Sir Alex is experienced to know that things turn around pretty quickly," Gill said.
"His plans for the squad, which he was working on with Carlos Queiroz, were moving in the right direction. I think there has been a transformation and it has been very positive and last season was great."