Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Roy Keane – three of the great midfielders of the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford, but three names on a growing list of former Manchester United players who have struggled to use Ferguson’s wisdom as a launch pad for their own managerial careers. Steve Bruce and Mark Hughes, two of the more successful bosses in post-United life, have had as many ups as downs. Whatever the Ferguson Secret is, his players have been unable to capture it.

But two of the likelier candidates to break that streak are expected to stake their claim in the not-so-distant future. Few players have had more opportunities to learn from Ferguson than Gary and Phil Neville, who both joined the club as youngsters before bursting into the first team and helping the Red Devils build a decade of dominance before Phil’s move to Everton. At times, they were flavour of the month with Ferguson; at times they received the hairdryer treatment – but nonetheless they got a good long look at the most successful British manager of the past 20 years.

The smart money is on both Nevilles reaping the benefits of this managerial education.

While Gary has blossomed as a Sky Sports pundit, he has also already taken his first strides as part of a coaching set-up, working alongside England boss Roy Hodgson as an assistant coach and travelling with the national team to Euro 2012. The feedback from all involved has been glowing. But he is in no hurry to move into a managerial hotseat at club level just yet, despite plenty of interest.

"I have been offered two or three roles in the last 18 months but it would not have been the right decision", he said. "I see a lot of people rush into coaching too quickly. In two years they are finished. There are a lot of crazy owners out there."

Gary has never been hesitant about speaking his mind and he excelled as Manchester United captain in the wake of Roy Keane’s departure from Old Trafford back in 2006. His natural leadership skills will be easily transferable to the touchline and his personality appears more in line with Ferguson’s than any other former Manchester United player.

The younger Neville’s decision to move on from Goodison Park at the end of the season brings his managerial career onto the horizon too. Phil’s intention is to prolong his career on the pitch, which means leaving Everton, where his playing time has been limited lately. This summer, he will be part of the England Under-21 coaching staff at the European Championship, grabbing a valuable opportunity to gain experience alongside boss Stuart Pearce. Make no mistake, Everton will miss him.

"Phil is at a time now where I am not sure he would play all the games for us", Toffees manager David Moyes admitted. "If he wants to be part of my staff here he is more than welcome, he really is. He has been a big, powerful influence here for eight years and a big help to me in my job."

Phil’s arrival was a key factor in taking the culture at Everton to a new level. He brought the work ethic that had been instilled in him by Ferguson and passed on all the experience gained playing on the biggest stages for club and country. Whether playing at full-back or in midfield, his consistency and leadership have always shone through. Like Gary at Manchester United, Phil has relished acting as a club ambassador.

Both Nevilles will look back on many fond memories from their playing days – the silverware, the team-mates and the fans. But as one door closes, another opens – and they certainly have the advantage of careers that demand respect. While Gary and Phil will likely bide their time before contemplating full-time managerial roles, it would be a big surprise if they do not end up leading high profile clubs in the years ahead.

If any former Manchester United players can come close to emulating Ferguson’s success, it is the Neville brothers. Who knows, maybe one of them will even end up back at Old Trafford.

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