Will Fergie’s fledglings become the next generation of great managers?

With Phil Neville becoming the latest former Manchester United player to move into coaching, could the team that grew up together one day manage against each other?

With the news that Phil Neville is to follow his brother Gary into the world of coaching, it would be easy to think it were a family trait – the desire to teach others what they have spent years doing themselves.

But is there more to it than that? Is it not a Neville trait that has prompted such decisions, but the influence of their former manager Sir Alex Ferguson? In short, have Fergie’s fledglings been inspired to coach by arguably the greatest coach of all?

Shortly before the announcement that the younger Neville will be joining the England Under-21 coaching staff for the upcoming European Championships, the older one was talking of his dual roles as England coach and match analyst for Sky.

He acknowledged he couldn’t do both for ever, that one day he would choose and that the lure of the dressing room may be too strong to ignore. If you have ever watched him analyse a match, you will understand why. Quite simply, Gary Neville understands football; both as a sport and as a science.

If he can convey his thoughts to a team as well as he does to an audience, he could be one fine manager indeed.

The fact that his brother is following in his footsteps is no surprise. The 36-year-old Everton captain may be starting with a younger set of players, but there is a desire to begin the future before the present is even over, to coach before his playing days are done.

When players love the game that much, you wonder how much is innate and how much has been stoked by the words and influence of a now-71-year-old who still revels in every goal.

How else do you explain the apparent agelessness of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes? Is their desire to play on inspired, at least in part, by their manager’s similar determination?

When another former-United-player-turned-manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was asked if he might one day manage at Old Trafford, it was Giggs he suggested as the more likely candidate. And if and when he does finally play his last game, few would bet against him managing somewhere, if not at the place he has called home for over two decades.

Scholes is different. And perhaps he, of all the former fledglings, will disappear for good as he does temporarily after each and every game. And yet he himself refused to rule out managing Oldham Athletic when asked last year.

There is a sense within Old Trafford that these players have so much more to give.

It is for that reason that Nicky Butt, having completed his coaching badges, is now helping to coach United’s reserves. And why you sense that these players have been inspired to be so much more than just great footballers, but potentially great managers, too.

Of them all, only David Beckham seems likely to shun management, although he has a habit of surprising us.

But the rest, having played so long together, may one day be managing against each other. And what an interesting battle that will be.

Can you see all of Fergie's fledglings becoming managers?  And who do you think will be the most successful?

image: © edwin11

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