“Sir Alex Ferguson International Airport” is top of the list of proposed names for the 2018 rebrand of Manchester Airport, Prolific North has exclusively learnt.

Informed sources have confirmed to Prolific North that the former Manchester United manager is heading the shortlist of “famous sons/daughters” of the city likely to provide the MAG-owned airport’s new identity as of 2018.

Plans for the rebrand of the airport were first mooted last October, following Chancellor (and Tatton MP) George Osborne’s announcement that £600 million of Chinese investment had been secured to develop the site. At the time, the airport spoke of the need to “de-regionalise its passenger footfall furniture” in a bid to further establish its global credentials as it seeks to compete more aggressively, not only with Heathrow and Gatwick, but also with Frankfurt, Amsterdam Schiphol and increasingly Istanbul, as one of Europe’s hub airports.

Manchester Airport would be rebranded in 2018

Manchester Airport would be rebranded in 2018

The move is very much in line with the global trend for naming airport terminals after “famous sons” or well-known landmarks/institution associated with particular regions.

Among other well-known precedents are Charles de Gaulle (Paris), John F Kennedy (New York), Ronald Reagan National Airport (Washington), the proposed Dignitas Terminal in Zurich and, closer to home, John Lennon (Liverpool) and George Best (Belfast).

Manchester Airports Group plc (MAG) is the country’s largest UK-owned airport operator. It owns four airports – the others being Stansted, Bournemouth and East Midlands – and serves around 42 million passengers every year.

MAG bosses have been keeping an exceptionally tight lid on the branding review process, fearing the issue could easily become hugely locally divisive. A long list, drawn up in consultation with MAG staff and shared privately with Prolific North, suggests that not all employees have been taking the process entirely seriously.

Bez, the former Happy Mondays dancer and prospective Salford MP, and Morrissey, the one-time Smiths frontman, featured on the initial list of prospects, as did a suggestion for the “Tony Wilson International”. Several characters from Coronation Street, including Jack Duckworth and Bet Lynch, were apparently discounted very early.

The choice of Ferguson – a Glaswegian – is bound to be a controversial one, not least among Manchester City FC supporters, many of whom will not be happy travelling to away matches via a passenger hub that honours their one-time rivals. Sources close to the airport, however, insist that Fergie’s 27 years at the helm of the institution are almost singlehandedly responsible for Manchester’s international profile and make him the natural choice.

While no-one at the airport was prepared to comment publicly, news of the proposed rebranding has begun to leak out and it is believed that an announcement will be officially released this morning. An extraordinary press conference has been called for 12.30 today, although no indication has been given as to its likely subject matter.

One branding expert, Martin Carr, managing director of the True North design group in Manchester, said: “It makes some sense to choose Fergie. He is clearly a local icon and has helped put Manchester on the map globally.”

It is understood that suggestions that David Moyes, Fergie’s successor, should also be considered were dismissed at an early stage as he “didn’t have long-haul connotations”.

Calls to MAG’s communications office had not been returned in time for publication.