As The Star revealed last weekend, United’s board of directors decided to reach out to Jokanovic and his representatives ahead of Sunday’s visit to Everton following a review of the selection process.
Having parted company with Wilder in March, owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his footballing advisor Jan van Winckel initially compiled a five strong short list of names regarded as possessing the qualities required to replace the two-time promotion winner. But that has now risen to six after confirming their interest in discussing the role with Jokanovic, who led both Watford and Fulham out of the Championship before joining Qatari club Al-Gharafa.
Although neither United nor members of the Serb’s inner circle have been prepared to comment on the situation either publicly or privately, it is understood that preliminary discussions went well enough for another, more detailed, round of talks to be added to their respective calendars.
After publicly floating the idea of appointing caretaker Paul Heckingbottom on a permanent basis, having accepted Oostende’s Alexander Blessin is unlikely to be granted a work permit, United appear to have been persuaded to approach Jokanovic following a series of uncharacteristically lacklustre displays. To some degree, Heckingbottom suspects a downturn in performance was inevitable after their demotion was mathematically confirmed following last month’s loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
But the manner in which United succumbed to Crystal Palace last weekend, with a succession of half-hearted challenges gifting the visitors both of their two goals, was alarming. Particularly given that, despite waiting until January for their first win under Wilder this term, they were still rarely beaten by more than a single goal.
United conceded four without reply at Tottenham Hotspur six days before facing Roy Hodgson’s side, having let in five during their first outing after Wilder’s departure.
Jokanovic, capped more than 60 times by Yugoslavia as a player, is widely expected to return to Europe this summer with a number of clubs across the continent also thought to be interested in acquiring his services.