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Leeds United are on the verge of ending their long search for a new manager after sacking Jesse Marsch over two weeks ago. The man who is set to be given the task of keeping the Yorkshire club in the Premier League is Javi Gracia.
Gracia will be familiar with English fans after his stint with Watford in the 2018/19 season. The Spaniard led the club to a solid midtable finish in the Premier League and also reached the FA Cup final where his side lost 6-0 to Manchester City.
Aside from his season at Watford, Gracia has enjoyed a managerial career that has taken him all over the world. After leaving Watford, he joined Valencia before a stint at Al Sadd in Saudi Arabia. After being out of work for a year, the 52-year-old will now be fresh and ready to tackle this relegation battle head-on.
Considering the number of clubs he has managed, it is unsurprising that the deal he will sign at Elland Road is a short-term one just until the end of the current season. However, if he does manage to keep them afloat then he will surely be given the opportunity to stay on as manager if he wishes to.
The end of a frustrating process
Over the past couple of weeks, the Leeds United board have approached several managers about the vacancy. Unfortunately, for them, each manager has turned down the role which led many people to believe that u21 coach Michael Skubala would be given the nod on a permanent basis.
Skubala has taken control of Leeds’ last three fixtures, picking up a point in his first match in the dugout away at Manchester United. After that game, though, he then saw his team lose at home to Manchester United and away at Everton.
At the beginning of the process, Carlos Corberán was the favourite for the job however he decided to extend his contract at West Brom instead. They then made approaches for Rayo Vallecano’s Andoni Iraol and Feyenoord’s Arne Slot but both men ruled themselves out of the running.
Last week, it looked as if former Ajax boss Alfred Schreuder was in pole position for the job but talks quickly broke down. With Gracia, they are getting a man with plenty of experience but also a man who is aware he was far from the first choice. Whether that will play on his mind at all remains to be seen.
Javi Gracia, at Elland Road this morning to complete his appointment as new head coach of Leeds United ⚪️🇪🇸🤝🏻 #LUFC
Agreement set to be announced — it will be valid until the end of the season if all goes to plan. pic.twitter.com/itsOHrFJCI
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) February 21, 2023
A six-pointer to start
Gracia’s first game in charge will be Saturday’s relegation six-pointer with Southampton. The Whites currently sit in 19th place in the Premier League table while Southampton are rock-bottom. A draw isn’t much use to either team and with difficult fixtures on the horizon, Gracia will know that it’s a must-win game at home.
After the game with Southampton, Leeds are in FA Cup action away at Fulham. Although a win would take them into the last eight of the competition, Gracia will surely be tempted to give his first team a rest given the importance of Premier League survival.