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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Hughes opens Fulham talks

Mark Hughes has opened talks to become the new manager of Fulham, according to sources close to the former Manchester City and Blackburn boss.

Hughes will need persuading to take the job - as he has been holding out for one of the Premier League's big clubs, but without one in sight he may be tempted to come back into management at a club he initially harboured reservations about joining.

Soccernet was informed on Wednesday: "Yes, talks have started with Mark, and it will be interesting to see what happens next. Mark had previously turned Fulham down, but things have moved on significantly."

A transfer budget bigger than he expected and a larger salary than Fulham had originally intended to pay have opened up the door to Hughes.

The former Manchester United and Barcelona striker is now clear favourite for the job, although there are still two more candidates Mohammed Al-Fayed would like to speak to.

One of them, however, is not Sven Goran Eriksson, who has been left dangling after being initially told he was on the shortlist.

A source close to the Swede told Soccernet: "It appears that the main objection to Sven has been his high profile, the fact that he has hit the headlines for his private life in the past, and Al-Fayed has not wanted Sven for that reason.

"To leave him hanging on after being told he was on the shortlist, is outrageous treatment. Sven will not be Fulham manager it would seem, even though he has not been told he is no longer on the shortlist."

The bookmakers have now made Hughes the overwhelming favourite, but the deal has not been concluded and there have been many twists and turns in this prolonged selection process.

Hughes thought he would be in the running for the Liverpool job, and has been holding out for one of the big clubs in the Premier League. But with no such positions forthcoming, he appears to have had a change of heart about taking control at Craven Cottage.

Having made it clear when Fulham first sought a replacement for Roy Hodgson that he wasn't interested in a move to Fulham, the situation has changed dramatically.

Al-Fayed realised he would need a much bigger budget to lure a top draw manager, and Hughes was alerted to the extent of the transfer budget that had been pledged to Martin Jol during extended talks to lure the former Spurs manager to Craven Cottage.

At first it was thought that Al-Fayed had set aside £1 million-a-year for the new manager's salary, but Jol was eventually offered twice Hodgson's £1.2 million pay packet to entice him to quit Ajax, before the deal collapsed when an escape clause expired just days into Fulham's negotiations.

It was also suggested that Al-Fayed had promised Jol a £20 million transfer budget, something that has made Hughes stand up and take notice of the Fulham vacancy.

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