Kieran McKenna confident he is closing in on Manchester United job after talks with Old Trafford bosses

Kieran McKenna believes he is heading back to Manchester United (Picture: Getty)

Ipswich head coach Kieran McKenna has his heart firmly set on managing Manchester United and is now confident of securing a stunning return to Old Trafford.

United’s hierarchy have placed McKenna, 38, at the top of their shortlist of managerial candidates, with Erik ten Hag set to be relieved of his duties after this weekend’s FA Cup final, regardless of the outcome at Wembley.

It’s understood United bosses held initial discussions with McKenna’s representatives last week and Omar Berrada and Jason Wilcox – United’s newly appointed chief executive and technical director – were both present, with talks rumbling on in recent days.

McKenna is considered one of the most gifted young coaches in the English game after steering Ipswich to back-to-back promotions, taking them from mid-table obscurity in League One back to the big time of the Premier League.

Ipswich last competed in the top flight way back in 2002 and the club’s majority shareholder, Ed Schwartz, has jetted over from the United States to hold talks with CEO Mark Ashton and McKenna in a desperate attempt to keep the manager at Portman Road.

Chelsea are providing strong competition for McKenna’s services as they search for a new manager following the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, who left Stamford Bridge by mutual consent earlier this week. Brighton have also been credited with an interest in the wake of Roberto De Zerbi’s exit.

However, The Sun report that McKenna believes he is inching ever closer to the United job, two-and-a-half years after leaving the Theatre Dreams to take charge of Ipswich.

Ten Hag will be sacked after the FA Cup final (Picture: Getty)

The sought-after Northern Irishman previously worked as an assistant at United under Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and, briefly, Ralf Rangnick, having originally joined as manager of the Under-18 team in 2016.

Such an appointment would likely prove divisive among United’s long-suffering supporters given McKenna’s relative lack of experience at the top-level compared to the likes of Pochettino, De Zerbi, Thomas Tuchel and Gareth Southgate.

But United chiefs feel it is a gamble worth taking and the club hope to move quickly with an appointment once Ten Hag’s exit is set in stone and confirmed.

The Northern Irishman has led Ipswich back to the Premier League for the first time since 2002 (Picture: Getty)

Speaking at the 32nd LMA Annual Awards, where he was named LMA Manager of the Year, McKenna insisted ‘speculation’ over his future was inevitable given the success he had achieved with Ipswich.

Look, the club has had such a positive season and has such a positive future ahead.

‘We’ve achieved so much, it’s been an incredible two years. When you have success like that there always comes speculation and things like that, we’ve seen that every summer.

‘But I know how much everyone is looking forward to the season, the club is in a fantastic path and everyone is just really looking forward to the season ahead.’

Pressed on whether offers from Chelsea, Brighton or Manchester United would be hard to ignore, McKenna replied: ‘Again, when you do well – as a manger or as a player – there’s always going to be speculation.

‘I know what we’ve achieved isn’t a normal thing so there’s always going to be speculation. But that’s not where my focus is… tonight is about what we’ve achieved over the last couple of seasons.

‘It’s been a wonderful couple of years so tonight is about celebrating that. I know everyone is looking forward to next season and I know the club is going to be in a really good place going into that season.’

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Legendary former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson presented McKenna with the prestigious award, tipping the Ipswich boss to go on and succeed at the ‘very highest level’ of the game.

‘I extend my congratulations to Kieran McKenna on winning the LMA Manager of the Year award after a memorable season with Ipswich,’ Ferguson said.

‘He is an incredible young talent who had a great reputation when he was on the coaching staff at Manchester United.

‘Kieran is humble and carries tremendous composure, as well as great technical and tactical insight and awareness – all the hallmarks to become a top manager at the very highest level.’

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