• Premier League

Irwin tips Mourinho to replace Fergie

ESPN staff
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Manchester United legend Denis Irwin believes Jose Mourinho is the only manager capable of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.

In his column for Ireland's Sunday World newspaper, Irwin has given a glowing endorsement to the Real Madrid manager and believes he has the full package required to take over from the most successful manager in the modern era.

Irwin, who was was a part of the iconic Treble winning team in 1999, admits no-one knows when 71-year-old Ferguson will end his Old Trafford dynasty, but he is in little doubt about who should take over.

"There is only one manager in world football right now who has what it takes to succeed Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and his name is Jose Mourinho," Irwin said.

"It has long been said that only a fool would put himself forward to succeed the manager whose longevity and success has been second to none in the history of the game, but Mourinho is the special one and could handle everything that would go with this unique job.

"None of us know when the United gaffer will decide the time is right for him to step down and that is the way it has to be after his announcement that he would retire at the end of the 2001/02 season had such a negative affect on everyone at Old Trafford.

"More than a decade later and we are all still guessing when the man who celebrated his 71st birthday last New Year's Eve will finally call it quits, with the debate over who will eventually follow in his huge footsteps raging for many a year.

"Fergie's departure will send shock waves through the club, so a character who boasts the personality and track record will be required to swiftly step in and get everything back in order. That man has to be Mourinho."

Irwin conceded the Portuguese tactician is something of a divisive figure and knows his backing for him to succeed Ferguson will not be greeted with unanimous approval, but he is convinced Mourinho has the tools to do well in a job that would be daunting for every other coach in the game.

"The Real Madrid boss is a controversial character who rubs people up the wrong way at times, but here is a guy who has the charisma, authority and a history of success that makes him perfect for this role," Irwin added.

"I saw comments from Old Trafford legends Bobby Charlton and Peter Schmeichel questioning whether Mourinho was the right man to succeed Ferguson and I would guess that their caution stems from the fact that he has a track record of joining a club, staying for two or three years and then leaving.

"After so many years of stability under Ferguson, United would ideally like to have a successor who is eager to build his own dynasty at the club and stay around for many a year and while Jose hasn't always been the type to do that, I reckon he would see this as the job he wants for the long-term.

"Pep Guardiola is another name who has been linked to United, but he has just taken up a long-term position at Bayern Munich and while Everton boss David Moyes is often mentioned as a contender, I think it would be a risk to appoint a manager who has not won a trophy in the game.

"The truth is that until Fergie tells the world he is stepping aside, we will all be guessing when his glorious era as United manager will come to an end, but he has a ready-made replacement who could step into his shoes at long last. That man is Jose Mourinho."

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