NICKY BUTT could join Wayne Rooney at Derby after quitting as Manchester United’s head of first team development.
The former Red Devils midfielder, 46, spent nine years in the role and as a coach at Old Trafford, bringing through the likes of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Scott McTominay and Dean Henderson.
Yet it is understood Butt did not see eye to eye with new director of football John Murtough.
And while the Class of ’92 star said all the right things on his departure, his exit was still a surprise.
Butt, who played almost 400 games under Sir Alex Ferguson and was a member of the historic 1999 Treble-winning side, said: “Having come through the academy myself it has been an absolute privilege to come back and work with a new generation of talent making that same journey.
“I’m proud of the role everyone on the staff plays in giving our young footballers the best possible chance of fulfilling their potential.
“The results are clear to see in the increased number of home-grown players reaching the first team.
“I already know from my playing days how difficult it is to leave Manchester United but it feels like the right moment for a new professional challenge.
“I look forward to exploring opportunities that build on the great experiences I’ve had here over the past nine years.”
There is a vacancy at Derby working with United legend Rooney.
Under-23 boss Gary Bowyer left this week to become manager of Salford City — the team Butt co-owns with pals David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and businessman Peter Lim.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thanked his former team-mate and said: “Nicky will always be a legend of Manchester United as a six-time Premier League winner and, of course, an integral part of our Treble-winning team.
“We are all going to miss him but Nicky knows he will always be welcome back.”
There will be no shortage of suitors for Butt and Beckham may even try to lure him to Inter Miami.
But the lure of working with ambitious Rooney and helping him get Derby back into the Premier League may well appeal more.
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Meanwhile, Notts County have sacked Neal Ardley and his No 2 Greg Abbott.
Ardley, 48, had lost only once in eight games and had the Magpies on a four-game unbeaten run.
A statement from the National League side’s owners Chris and Alex Reedtz said: “We wish to place on record the huge respect we have for Neal both as a manager and a man.
“It has also been pleasing to see an upturn in recent results. We do not, however, apply short-term thinking to decisions of this magnitude.”
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