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Saturday 3 December 2016

Neville plots path to Old Trafford

United will be watching ex-captain closely as boss of Valencia

Gary Neville will take over as Valencia manager on Sunday
Gary Neville will take over as Valencia manager on Sunday

Manchester United's board will be keeping a close watch on Gary Neville and his Valencia adventure, with the former captain now indirectly joining the race to become the next manager at Old Trafford.

News that the former Manchester United defender would take the reins at the Primera Division club for the remainder of the campaign sent shockwaves around the footballing world.

If the new Valencia manager takes to the dugout with anything like the ease he did the television studio then he might just be in pole position when Louis van Gaal eventually walks away from Old Trafford.

Neville now joins Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti and Ryan Giggs as the leading names to replace Van Gaal at the end of the 2017 season, if not sooner.

United's Dutch manager may have proclaimed Giggs his successor, but any suggestion that the Welshman is a shoo-in for the job is, at best, premature.

Giggs may be getting close tutelage from Van Gaal - but his lack of experience as a number one will always be a danger to his ambitions of taking over the hot seat.

The next managerial call from United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward is a big one.

He got it badly wrong when appointing David Moyes as Alex Ferguson's successor.

How far back that set United is still to be determined. With the club very much in a state of transition under Van Gaal, it is crucial that the man who takes over the reins is the right one.

The sentimental choice is Giggs - and there has been a long-held belief within the club that he will one-day take the top job.

But there is no ignoring the risk that comes with appointing a man who's only real on the job experience came in four games as caretaker.

It would be very brave to overlook the proven track records of Guardiola and Ancelotti in favour of Giggs - no matter how popular he is among supporters. And that's assuming his reputation isn't tarnished by the dour football being served up by Van Gaal. In that sense Neville - like Paul Scholes - benefits from the distance put between him and the current regime.

Both Neville and Scholes - good friends with Giggs and graduates of the famed Class of 92 - have the freedom to be vocal in their criticism of Van Gaal. Now Neville has the chance to put his money where his mouth is.

Neville has become an acclaimed pundit at Sky Sports since retiring during the 2010/11 season and a key coach in the England set-up, although management has long been an ambition. That chance comes in the unlikely surroundings of Valencia, where the former right-back will work alongside brother Phil having been handed the reins at the Mestalla until the end of the campaign.

"I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity with Valencia," Neville said.

"Valencia are a huge football club of immense standing and I know from my time as a player the passion and dedication of the Valencia fans. I am really looking forward to working with the club's talented group of players and am excited about the challenge ahead."

Neville will be unveiled at a press conference this afternoon, and takes the reins when the new Valencia head coach will speak alongside club president Layhoon Chan.

Sunday will be his first official day in the hotseat as brother Phil and interim boss Voro take charge of Saturday's mouth-watering Primera Division clash with Barcelona.

Neville's first match in charge will be the home Champions League clash with Lyon next Wednesday - a match Valencia have to win to stand any chance of progressing out of Group H.

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