Fernandez set to be Fergie's No 2 at United

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The Independent Football

Frenchman Luis Fernandez last night emerged as the surprise front runner for the role of assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Fernandez, who has been out of work since the summer when he left Paris Saint-Germain, looks to have beaten the likes of Bryan Robson, Martin Jol and Mike Phelan to the coveted position.

Sir Alex is said to have considered numerous options before deciding on another continental No 2 to replace Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese coach who is now manager at Real Madrid. Indeed, the Scot has made no secret of the fact that his main aim this season is to win another Champions' League medal to add to the one he collected in 1999. "A club our size must win the big one again," he said recently.

The former midfielder and French international Fernandez, who has plenty of coaching experience with two separate stints at PSG and two successful seasons with Athletic Bilbao, is seen as the perfect choice. Fernandez also won the Cup-Winners' Cup with PSG in 1996, further adding to his credentials as the right man to help lead a fresh assault on Europe.

A club spokesman refused to comment yesterday - it was a matter for the manager - but negotiations are said to be at an advanced stage for the man who was part of France's magical midfield quartet in the 1980s. Fernandez, who won 60 international caps, played alongside Michel Platini, Jean Tigana and Alain Giresse as Les Bleus won Euro 84 on home soil and then reached the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

As a manager, he has never won a championship, but has had success in cup competitions, both in France and Europe. He is also a tough disciplinarian who favours working with the back-four. This would suit the more attack-minded Sir Alex perfectly, thus leaving Fernandez to help shore up an often shaky looking defence.