John Hughes favourite to succeed Ray McKinnon at Dundee United

Ray McKinnon was sacked following Dundee United's defeat by Inverness at Tannadice on Saturday. Picture: SNS.
Ray McKinnon was sacked following Dundee United's defeat by Inverness at Tannadice on Saturday. Picture: SNS.
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John Hughes last night emerged as front-runner to take over at Dundee United in the wake of Ray McKinnon’s sacking.

McKinnon was axed just 17 months into the job following Saturday’s dismal defeat by Inverness which sent alarm bells ringing in the Tannadice boardroom as they desperately chase promotion back to the Premiership.

The Tangerines spent yesterday sounding out potential candidates to succeed McKinnon and it is understood 53-year-old Hughes is high on their list in their efforts to have a new man in the dugout for Saturday’s crunch clash away to Dumbarton.

As well as Hughes, former Ross County boss Jim McIntyre, ex-Hibs manager Alan Stubbs, Dumbarton boss Stevie Aitken and ex-Fleetwood manager Steven Pressley are others also in the frame for the vacant Tayside hotseat.

Hughes is known to have support within the boardroom and would be free to make a return to management following his departure from Raith Rovers at the end of last season.

Former Hibs and Raith boss Hughes led Falkirk to promotion to the top flight early in his managerial career and no compensation would be required this time to take him to Tayside.

United were keen on Hughes before Mixu Paatelainen’s appointment back in October 2015 but the Edinburgh-born manager was in charge of Inverness at the time and the Taysiders were not keen to shell out the compensation to lure him from the Highlands.

McIntyre is a former United player and currently looking for a return to the dug-out following his recent departure from Ross County where he guided the Staggies to their first-ever major trophy by lifting the League Cup in 2016.

Stubbs is known to be keen on getting back in the dug-out while former United defender Pressley is a potential outsider.

McKinnon was axed just hours after their abject Inverness display, having come to the helm in May 2016 to try to lead the Tangerines back to the Premiership following relegation.

But their failure to win promotion via the play-offs at the end of last season, allied to them falling five points behind Championship leaders St Mirren, prompted the United board to take action, knowing they cannot afford another season out of the top flight.

United aim to make a swift appointment to lift morale and prevent the threat of falling further behind in the race for the title.