SHEFFIELD United have started interviewing candidates for the vacant managerial position at Bramall Lane.
But The Star understands that Roberto Di Matteo must significantly reduce his wage demands in order to be considered a serious contender after the Swiss’s representative made contact with the club last week.
Di Matteo, who has been out of work since being sacked by West Bromwich Albion in February, is among a host of high-profile candidates exploring the possibility of replacing Micky Adams following the 49-year-old’s departure.
With chief executive Trevor Birch tendering his resignation soon after, United’s plc chairman and major shareholder Kevin McCabe is leading the search for Adams’ successor, with Danny Wilson, previously of Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley, Leyton Orient’s Russell Slade and Chris Wilder of Oxford also keen.
Having steered West Brom into the Premier League 12 months ago, Di Matteo would be a popular appointment among supporters still reeling from United’s relegation from the Championship last season.
The former Chelsea and Lazio midfielder also has admirers among United’s hierarchy but, as the club prepares for life in League One next term, they must strike a balance between ambition and financial prudence to cope with the subsequent £12 million shortfall in revenue.
United are also aware Di Matteo would be tempted by any invitation to speak with West Ham following Avram Grant’s dismissal on Sunday evening.
McCabe, who is believed to have spent the weekend in Malta speaking with sponsors MTA, has made no secret of his desire to appointment someone capable of fashioning an exciting squad on a vastly reduced budget.
Di Matteo impressed during a previous spell with MK Dons but also faces stiff competition from rivals arguably even more accomplished at lower-league level.
Wilson, who delivered top-flight football to Oakwell in 1997, boasts a promotion with Hartlepool and a play-off final appearance with Swindon on his CV while Slade, having worked extensively in youth development, would also be comfortable blending members of United’s academy into a revamped firs -team.
Several members of the squad which entertained Manchester United in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final last night have already made their senior debuts.
Mark Robins’ decision to sever his ties with Barnsley soon after Adams’ dismissal has inevitably led to reports he is being lined up to take charge. But sources at both clubs insist the timing of his decision was purely coincidental.
McCabe, who is likely to delay any appointment until after Monday’s second leg at Old Trafford, argued that graduates of United’s development programme must be given greater exposure in order to reduce the team’s reliance on expensive loans.
However, funds are also likely to be made available for what has been described as “strategic” forays into the transfer market for experienced professionals.