LONDON • Speculation that Rui Faria could be Arsenal's next manager gathered pace after the Manchester United assistant coach announced on Saturday that he will leave the club at the end of the season.
His impending exit after being on the Old Trafford bench for the final time in yesterday's 1-0 win over Watford in the Premier League comes days after United manager Jose Mourinho tipped Faria to be a good choice for the vacant Arsenal manager's job.
Arsene Wenger took charge of the Gunners for the last time at Huddersfield Town yesterday amid British media reports that Faria is on Arsenal's shortlist to replace the Frenchman.
The Portuguese is also among the bookmakers' favourites to end up in the Emirates hotseat next season, joining Brendan Rodgers, Luis Enrique and Zeljko Buvac as dark horses behind favourite Massimiliano Allegri, second-favourite Mikel Arteta and another top contender, Carlo Ancelotti.
Faria has worked with Mourinho since 2001 and they have won 25 trophies together with six clubs. They can make it 26 on Saturday, when United face Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
But Faria hinted that he is aiming to become a manager in his own right.
"After a lot of consideration, and with a very heavy heart, I have decided the time is right for me to move on," the 42-year-old Portuguese told United's website.
"I have had 17 years of incredible and unforgettable experiences. However, I have felt for some time that I would like to spend much more quality time with my family before pursuing any new challenge in my professional life."
Mourinho, 55, paid tribute to his long-time right-hand man.
"The intelligent student is now a football expert, ready for a successful career as a manager," said the former Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager.
"Seventeen years… in Leiria, Porto, London, Milan, Madrid, London again and Manchester. Training, playing, travelling, studying, laughing and also a few tears of happiness. Seventeen years and the kid is now a man."
Faria, like Mourinho, never played top-level football, but became a significant part of his compatriot's coaching staff after meeting him during a seminar at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium in 2000.
At the time, Mourinho was assistant to Louis van Gaal at Barcelona but, when he became a manager at Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria in 2001, he took Faria on as his fitness coach, and the two remained together for spells at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
Earlier this month, Mourinho told the British media: "You ask me if I think it would be a good fit (Faria at Arsenal) and I say 'yes'.
"And I say it because more than my assistant, he is my friend. If my friend has the possibility one day of a big job I would help him to pack and to carry the bags and to wish him luck."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS