Michael O'Neill: Scottish FA makes official approach for Northern Ireland manager

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Northern Ireland's players want O'Neill to stay - Corry Evans

The Scottish Football Association has made an official approach to its Northern Ireland counterparts for permission to speak to Michael O'Neill.

O'Neill, 48, is the SFA's preferred candidate to succeed Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager.

Strachan left in October following Scotland's failure to reach the World Cup play-offs.

In an attempt to retain O'Neill as manager, the Irish Football Association has offered him an improved contract.

O'Neill has been in charge of Northern Ireland for six years but just missed out on World Cup qualification.

The former Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers boss is under contract until 2020, on a deal believed to be worth £500,000 a year.

BBC Sport understands O'Neill is also in the frame for the vacant manager's position at Sunderland.

O'Neill, who lives in Edinburgh, guided Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 - their first major finals since the 1986 World Cup.

He steered them to second place behind Germany in a World Cup qualifying group that included the Czech Republic and Norway, only to lose out on a place at Russia 2018 after a 1-0 aggregate loss to Switzerland in a play-off.

Northern Ireland are currently 23rd in the Fifa rankings, six places above Scotland.

"I think he's eminently suitable for the job," former Scotland boss Craig Brown told BBC 5 live. "He's got a very good international CV, particularly good with European football, and it's exactly what Scotland need.

"He's picking players from the lower echelons of both England and Scotland with minimal resources. I think the Scotland [resources] should be better, so I would think he would do equally well or better with Scotland."

Asked how O'Neill might handle the media scrutiny in Scotland, Brown added: "He lives in Scotland so he will have seen what Gordon Strachan has been subjected to. He will have to make his name in Scotland, and that depends on a few positive results."

A graphic of Michael O'Neill's record in charge of Northern Ireland
O'Neill's overall record in charge of Northern Ireland. His win % in competitive games is 39%

O'Neill won only one of his first 18 matches in charge of Northern Ireland, but has won 17 and drawn eight of his 35 matches since September 2014.

O'Neill's Northern Ireland assistants are also based in Scotland. Austin MacPhee is assistant manager at Hearts, while Jimmy Nicholl is assistant boss at Falkirk.

SFA performance director Malky Mackay took charge of Scotland for a friendly defeat by Holland last week, but chief executive Stewart Regan had already ruled him out of the running to succeed Strachan on a long-term basis.

Scotland have not been to a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.

Their next match is likely to be in March, with talks taking place over a friendly in Morocco. But they do not have a competitive fixture until next autumn.

Under Strachan, Scotland were unbeaten in their final six qualifying matches but finished third behind group winners England and Slovakia.

Gordon Strachan and Michael O'Neill at Hampden Park in March 2015
O'Neill is the manager the Scottish FA want to replace Strachan (left)
Michael O'Neill fact-file
Born 5 July 1969
Began career with Coleraine in Irish League, before joining Newcastle United
Played as a midfielder and forward during a 20-year playing career
Among the clubs he played for were Dundee United, Hibernian, Coventry City, Wigan Athletic and St Johnstone
Made 31 appearances for Northern Ireland, scoring four goals
Was in charge of Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers before being appointed Northern Ireland boss in December 2011

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