Football: McClaren made United coach

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The Independent Online
STEVE McCLAREN knows just how Howard Wilkinson felt after becoming Alex Ferguson's new right-hand man. Wilkinson claimed his head was in a spin after he was appointed caretaker manager of England following Glenn Hoddle's sacking and McClaren used the same words to describe his feelings at joining Manchester United.

Thirty-six hours after Ferguson asked his Derby counterpart, Jim Smith, for permission to speak to his first-team coach, McClaren was appointed United's assistant manager. McClaren agreed to join United yesterday after talks at Old Trafford and later teamed up with the players at their Nottingham headquarters.

The Yorkshireman will make his first appearance alongside Ferguson at Nottingham Forest today and will be formally welcomed to the club on Monday.

Ferguson approached Smith after Wednesday's Premiership match between the teams at Old Trafford and McClaren revealed he was still coming to terms with the events of the past day and a half. "It's all happened pretty quickly and my head is still in a spin," he said.

McClaren takes over from reserve-team coach Jim Ryan, who had been Ferguson's assistant since Brian Kidd left to become manager of Blackburn. Smith had been grooming McClaren to succeed him at Pride Park and the former County player admitted that while he was sad to be leaving he could not turn down United.

"The chairman, the board, Jimmy and all the rest of the staff have been brilliant," he said. "But in football things happen quickly and people move on. It's a great opportunity for me."

McClaren, 37, who began his coaching career as youth development officer at Oxford, will now be viewed as the front-runner to succeed Ferguson when the United manager finally decides to retire in three or four years' time.

Smith was disappointed to lose McClaren, who is regarded as one of the best and most innovative young coaches in the game, but he has moved swiftly to appoint Ray Harford as his replacement for the rest of the season. Harford, who helped Blackburn win the Premiership title in 1995, has been out of the game since he left Queen's Park Rangers last year.