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Controversy as Real enter Pogba race

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By ESPN Staff

Villa manager O'Neill plays down England talk

Martin O'Neill has emerged as favourite to succeed Steve McClaren after he was sacked as England coach - but is insisting he is 'committed' to Aston Villa.

O'Neill has been made 7/4 favourite to take over after McClaren was shown the exit door after just 16 months in charge following a Football Association board meeting on Thursday morning.

But O'Neill took time out only hours before England's exit from Euro 2008 was confirmed by the home defeat by Croatia to claim reports linking him to the national post were 'absolute nonsense.'

The Northern Irishman, who was a candidate after Sven-Goran Eriksson's departure in the summer of 2006, was upset that he was supposedly 'keeping his door open' in case the FA approached him.

O'Neill said: 'It is absolute nonsense. I do not even remember saying it, to be perfectly honest.

'It is utterly pointless to talk about it. I am committed to Aston Villa. I cannot end speculation. I have had it for years and years and years, no matter what you say.

'I have a big commitment to Aston Villa. It is as simple as that.'

O'Neill also rubbished suggestions that his trip to America to see club owner Randy Lerner last week was to finalise his departure from Villa should the England job become vacant.

He said: 'I went to America to see Randy Lerner on Aston Villa business and Aston Villa business alone. It's absolute nonsense for someone to suggest otherwise.'

Whether O'Neill is less forthright in his commitment to Villa should McClaren be sacked remains to be seen.

Lerner has already indicated he will not stand in O'Neill's way if he gets the opportunity to become McClaren's successor.

Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is 7/2 with Portuguese coach Luiz Felipe Scolari 5/1 and Russia coach Guus Hiddink 6/1.