MANCHESTER - Manchester United hope to keep Gary Neville on as a coach now he has retired because he is a vital part of the "family atmosphere" at the club, manager Sir Alex Ferguson said on Friday.
The 35-year-old defender, who spent his whole career at the club he supported since he was a boy, hung up his boots earlier this week but Ferguson will not let him go very far.
"The next step for our club is to retain Gary in a capacity which he will be satisfied with," Ferguson told a news conference.
"Because I feel that his contribution and what he can contribute in future years is about what we are - we are a family club and he has been part of that.
"He has created that family atmosphere in the dressing room time and time again over the years, and I think we want him to stay in a capacity. He is an absolute legend at the club and will remain so for the rest of his life."
Ferguson said Neville had taken his coaching badges and was ready to go into that side of the sport.
"I do think he has a role to play as a coach, I really do, particularly with the young players because he's been a great example to young players," the manager said.
The steely determination Neville displayed on the pitch in transforming himself from a centre back in his youth days to a right-back when he was not quite tall enough to make a career in his favoured position is also evident in his off-field persona.
"The number of times he's helped a lot of these young players with their contract, time and time again. He's prepared to fight for them, fight their corners and make sure they get the right deal," said Ferguson.
"I don't know how many times the door has opened and I've said 'Oh, what now Gary?'. 'I want to speak to you about the boy's contract, I think he can do better'."
"They all owe him a debt, all these young players who have gone to Gary for advice and help.
While fellow long-serving players Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were also approached for advice by youngsters, no one gives it quite as bluntly as Neville.
"His opinions are always so accurate and forthright and honest," said Ferguson. "Gary's definitely forthright - he'd be up to my door right away."
Players like John O'Shea, Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand will be able to take over Neville's role in creating an approachable atmosphere for younger players, said Ferguson, who showed his own softer side at the news conference on Friday.
When a loud crash brought proceedings to an abrupt end, Ferguson rushed out of his seat to check on the well-being of a cameraman who had fainted while filming.
He quickly took out his mobile phone and rang for assistance before heading off to prepare his team for Saturday's Premier League match at Wolverhampton Wanderers.comments