Manchester United's Ryan Giggs is set to become the first individual to complete the mandatory qualification for Premier League and Champions League managers while still playing, sending a clear signal that he aspires to manage the club one day.
Last year, Alex Ferguson told United that he believes Giggs can be his successor as manager when he finally walks away from Old Trafford and the 39-year-old has laid down a marker by reaching UEFA Pro Licence level even before his playing days have finished. Giggs has had to work through his 'B' and 'A' licences to reach the elite standard, required by anyone who wants to manage in a top division or the Champions League.
Giggs will undertake 240 hours of study to gain the qualification – including spending three days at a European club and making a detailed case study of a business. He is expected to secure the qualification within the next 12 months. His former team-mates Gary Neville and Paul Ince have been among the 20 other students embarking on the qualification.
Inevitably, Giggs cites Ferguson as his mentor and the manager is likely to have allowed him to work with United's young players as part of the practical element of the course.
The United chief executive, David Gill, has said that Ferguson's view on his own successor will be crucial. Pep Guardiola's decision to take on the Bayern Munich role removes one of the prime candidates.
Ferguson has not travelled but the players are hoping to put Sunday's league setback against Tottenham behind them. United conceded an injury-time equaliser at White Hart Lane that meant their lead at the top of the table was cut to five points.
Defender Phil Jones said: "Confidence is high but we know we still have to produce and do our job every time we step out on the pitch.
"As long as we're focused on what we've got to do and on our game plan hopefully we'll be okay."
The squad's attention has now turned back to the FA Cup and the visit of the Cottagers, which will see striker Dimitar Berbatov back at Old Trafford for the first time since leaving.
Berbatov, signed by United for £30m in 2008, left United for the London club in August. Jones said: " The FA Cup is a great competition and one we want to win. We want to go as far as we can – it's a competition I've always admired. It'll be great to see Berba back at Old Trafford, technically he's a fantastic player.
"Hopefully we can get the result we want and continue to progress in the competition."
United have defended their ticket pricing policy for the match following a complaint by Fulham.
Fulham were unhappy to discover that some United fans have been able to purchase seats equivalent to those on offer to their supporters £5 cheaper.
As is common practice for FA Cup games, the clubs had agreed a standard price of £45 for home and away fans but United members have been able to buy them at a discounted rate of £40.
A United spokesman said: "Fulham fans are paying the same as United fans who are not members. A discount scheme has existed for members for around 20 years. We're surprised it has come as a surprise to them."
The English FA has received a complaint from Fulham and has written to United for an explanation. (© Independent News Service)