Rio Ferdinand believes Gary Neville will be primed for the Manchester United job if his time at Valencia proves a success.
Former England full-back Neville spent his entire career at Old Trafford and, having become an acclaimed pundit and key coach in the national team set-up, is now taking his first steps in management with the Spanish side.
Valencia is an unlikely first destination for Neville’s first foray as head coach, having been handed the Mestalla reins until the end of the season.
It is a big opportunity and one which Neville’s former England and United team-mate Ferdinand believes will be closely scrutinised by those high up the Old Trafford hierarchy.
“Gary knows he has a big job to do and that it won’t be an easy ride,” he told the Sun.
“Valencia is a hot-bed of football. They take it seriously and are very passionate.
“The Mestalla is a great throw-back stadium, a tight ground with sheer sides and if he is under pressure he will certainly feel it.
“But if he can go on a run the momentum will build and the fans can really carry the team.
“What you can be sure of is that the people at the top at Manchester United will be looking at what Gary does now and be interested to see how he gets on.
“If he does well, there is a very big chance that he will be wanted back at Old Trafford as manager at some point – and that he would be keen on going back as well, a local lad taking over his boyhood club.”
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce, who owns a property not far from where Neville will be working, has expressed his surprise at the news and also feels the job will be a “great test” of the 40-year-old’s management credentials.
“It’s a shock and an unusual challenge,” Allardyce said.
“It will be a great test for Gary of whether all those ideas he has in his head, he can put them into practice.
“I have a villa 45, 50, 60 minutes from there and I’ve been to watch them play in their own stadium, and while it’s a pretty old, run-down stadium, the atmosphere is fantastic.
“The city is massively passionate about its football, so it will be a big challenge and we will see if he can take the pressure and how well he does.”
Aston Villa boss Remi Garde believes Neville has the right “profile” for the role.
“It’s a very good opportunity for him,” Garde said.
“One day you have to jump into the job and Valencia is a very good club.
“I remember him as a player – he was very involved in the game and showed some strong character. He has got the profile to do this job.”