Sheffield United hope their search for a new manager has now entered its final phase

Sheffield United told representatives of one candidate hoping to become their next permanent manager that they planned to reach a decision on the identity of Chris Wilder’s successor following the game against Burnley, which marked the end of the club’s stay in the Premier League.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 6:20 am

The individual concerned, who is currently based in England, was informed by members of his inner circle that Bramall Lane’s board of directors hoped to bring what has been a protracted search to a close “immediately after” the meeting with Sean Dyche’s side.

Although United failed to make an announcement following Sunday’s match, contact is now believed to have been made with everyone whose name features on the six man shortlist compiled by Jan van Winckel and other members of owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s selection panel.

They include Slavisa Jokanovic, previously of Watford and Fulham, and Oostende head coach Alexander Blessin - although the road to his signature appears to have been blocked by legislation governing work permits post-Brexit.

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Slavisa Jokanovic remains the bookies favourite to become the new Sheffield United manager. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Paul Heckingbottom, who has been in caretaker charge since Wilder’s departure in March, has also been considered for the role on a permanent basis.

Speaking after David McGoldrick’s first-half goal ensured United bowed out of the top-flight with a victory, Heckingbottom admitted it would be best for all concerned if Wilder’s replacement is unveiled “sooner rather than later” in order to begin laying the foundations for a push for promotion next term.

Sheffield United's Interim manager Paul Heckingbottom reacts following the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Burnley at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern England on May 23, 2021. (Photo by Jan Kruger / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JAN KRUGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite United insistence that they plan to keep the core of their squad intact, with Heckingbottom insisting it is equipped to challenge for a top two finish, midfielder Sander Berge is expected to move on this summer with Arsenal among those reportedly interested in acquiring the Norwegian’s services.

Others, including several of the youngsters introduced by Wilder and Heckingbottom since Christmas, are also likely to attract admiring glances from elsewhere - particularly as teams at the top of the PL attempt to bolster their options at under-23 level following the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Heckingbottom, the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian manager, initially joined United to oversee their own development squad.