Man Utd 'working to appoint' key man of Leeds United's Championship promotion rivals in major blow

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Southampton lost second-place in the Championship to Leeds United during the week and now face uncertainty over a key pillar of their success.

Southampton could be forced to deal with a major loss during the Championship promotion race with reports suggesting that Manchester United are hoping to poach sporting director Jason Wilcox.

Wilcox joined Southampton in January 2023 and has been crucial to the period in which they recovered from Premier League relegation to become one of Leeds United's main promotion rivals. He was pivotal to the appointment of Russell Martin as manager in the summer and also played a major role in signing the likes of Shea Charles, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and David Brooks.

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Having previously worked with Phil Foden and Rico Lewis, among others, as Manchester City's Academy director, Wilcox has impressed making the step up to a first-team role and his track record at St Mary's has attracted attention. The Athletic report that Manchester United are lining up the 52-year-old to join their recruitment staff.

Erik ten Hag’s side are set for a period of major change, following the arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe as an investor in the club. They have already appointed a new chief executive and hope to bring in Newcastle's Dan Ashworth as sporting director. The report suggests Wilcox would report to a sporting director, meaning it would be a lesser role but at a far bigger club.

The Old Trafford outfit are yet to officially approach Southampton for their transfer chief but Wilcox is said to be aware of the interest. His stance on a potential move is unclear but it would likely be a major step up for the former Leeds and Blackburn midfielder.

News of interest coming from Manchester United will unnerve those in charge at St. Mary's, with Southampton in the middle of a promotion race and unlikely to welcome such uncertainty. Martin's side saw a club-record 25-game unbeaten run end with a 3-0 defeat at Bristol City on Tuesday evening, a result which allowed Leeds to claim second place by beating Swansea City 4-0.

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Southampton face West Brom on Friday night and could reclaim their automatic promotion spot, but defeat could also allow Leeds to pull five points clear if Ipswich also drop points at Swansea. Both Southampton and Ipswich currently have a game in hand on Leeds.

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