Manchester United are now confident that they can land Gareth Bale at the end of the season following Real Madrid's sacking of Rafa Benitez today.

Bale is upset that so little patience has been shown by the Real hierarchy in a coach he was very comfortable with, raising United's chances of persuading him to move at the end of the season.

The Spanish club chose to overlook the out-of-work Jose Mourinho and replaced the 55-year-old Benitez with their youth-team coach, Zinedine Zidane.

The French World Cup winner's first job will be to persuade Bale that in spite of a
third managerial change in his two-and-a-half-year spell in Madrid, his place is secure in the Real team.

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This 12th sacking at the Bernabeu in 12 years could also have consequences for Manchester City and Chelsea. City's chances of signing unsettled midfielder Isco increased in recent weeks but he is now likely to stay at the club under Zidane. And Chelsea may now face a battle to keep Eden Hazard at the end of the season with the Belgian one of Zidane's favourite players.

Bale is understood to be massively disappointed by the decision to sack a manager for whom the Welshman produced sparkling form, scoring nine times in 12 La Liga games this season, with seven assists.

Bale was at times a lone supporter of Benitez's methods and man-management style. Midfielder James Rodriguez moaned when Benitez said he was a few training sessions off full fitness after returning from international duty.

Forward Jese refused to come on and play at left back when Madrid lost Marcelo to cramp late in the game against Villarreal. And Isco was caught sniggering on the bench when Real Madrid conceded against Rayo Vallecano.

Benitez's final act in charge was to fail to beat Gary Neville's Valencia on Sunday night but his fate was ultimately sealed by a string of poor results - including a 4-0 home defeat by Barcelona - and a failure to win over one of football's most difficult dressing rooms.

Trigger-happy Madrid president Florentino Perez was tempted by the idea of re-hiring Mourinho but the fear that he would divide the club left Zidane as the only choice despite reservations at the club about how prepared the 43-year-old Frenchman is for the top job after several underwhelming seasons in charge of the B team, Real Madrid Castilla.

Benitez will say goodbye to staff at Real Madrid's Valdebebas training ground today and then head back to England where he would like to continue his managerial career.

He could now be a target for Swansea and Aston Villa, though neither job is likely to appeal to the former Champions League winner.

Zidane said: "I will put all the heart I have into this job. I want to thank the club and the president for giving me the opportunity to train this club.

"It's the best club in the world with the best fan-base in the world. I want to do my very best to ensure that at the end of the season we will have a trophy."

- Daily Mail