at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
David Moyes, the Manchester United manager, is poised to make a flying start to his major rebuilding job for the fallen champions after the end of this season.
Moyes revealed Friday he was already “well into my planning” regarding new recruits as he nears the end of his difficult first season in charge, following the retirement of long-time manager Alex Ferguson.
However, Moyes was acutely aware that the World Cup, which opens in Brazil halfway through June and lasts for a month, will impinge on his efforts to reinforce the squad.
“I've got to say I'm well into my planning with my thoughts and ideas getting ready for next year,” said Moyes.
“It will probably be after the end of the season before anything takes place but we have got to look to do one or two things.
“It's difficult as players are going to be going away for the World Cup, so it's maybe not quite as easy.
“Ideally, all clubs would like to get the work done early. We cannot guarantee it but will try to make that happen.”
Hopes of a late recovery to claim fourth place, and a chance to qualify for the Champions League, are all but mathematically impossible, with United 10 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal heading into the final four league matches of this season, starting with Sunday's clash away to Moyes's former club, Everton.
While the likely absence of Champions League football will be a blow to finances as well as prestige, there will be no shortage of funds for Moyes to invest.
A new kit deal is imminent, with current suppliers Nike in pole position for a contract that could be worth up to £600 million ($1 billion, 729m euros) and which has excited the New York Stock Exchange this week, with the club's shares rising by eight per cent.
United's US-based owners, the Glazer family, are believed to be prepared to make £100m available for Moyes to reconstruct the squad which, only a year ago, won the Premier League title but has fallen well short this season.
Moyes will lose his captain Nemanja Vidic, who is to sign for Inter Milan, and he could be joined on his way out of Old Trafford by left-back Patrice Evra.
Meanwhile former England centre-back Rio Ferdinand is also expected to depart, and at 40 years old, Ryan Giggs's golden career is winding down.
Moyes was in Lisbon in midweek for a cup tie between Benfica and Porto, whose French centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala, is thought to be earmarked as a successor to Vidic, while Benfica midfielder Andre Gomes, 20, was outstanding.
The United manager, unable to prise Leighton Baines from Everton last pre-season, now has Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, 18, in mind to replace Evra.
The England defender, valued at £30m, has also interested Chelsea and Manchester City, but is thought to favour Old Trafford.
Moyes has also been strongly linked with William Carvalho, the Sporting Lisbon midfielder, Toni Kroos, although Bayern Munich are reluctant to part, and Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund, who is also valued at around £30m.
“Not everything you read is correct,” Moyes said. “We're linked with player after player and, every time I go to a game, I'm supposed to be signing three or four players from that game.
“That isn't the case, but everyone is well aware we are looking to make signings and we will try to do that whenever the opportunity arises.”
Moyes remains hopeful that strikers Wayne Rooney, just back from a toe injury, and Robin van Persie (knee) can contribute to the climax of United's disappointing season.
“Rooney trained great this week and has been in really good form,” Moyes said.
“Robin is in Holland and making progress, but we always thought it would be four to six weeks. We'll have a better assessment in the next week or so.
“Our medical team is heading out there to see him this week and get a better feel as to exactly where he is.” – AFP