Former Chelsea and Manchester United player Ray Wilkins believes Jose Mourinho will reject a return to west London in favour of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.

With Rafa Benitez set to leave The Blues at the end of the season, the home faithful are willing for Mourinho, who appears likely to leave Real Madrid in the summer, to return as manager six years on from the end of his first spell in charge.

But Wilkins, twice a caretaker boss at Chelsea, feels Mourinho's next managerial move will be to United, leaving the Stamford Bridge club free to appoint either Gus Poyet or Gianfranco Zola.

Jose Mourinho
Mourinho's Real Madrid beat Manchester United in the Champions League last week.

"There's lots of talk about Jose, I think Jose will be the next manager of Manchester United," Wilkins told talkSPORT.

"I would go for someone like a Gus Poyet who has served his apprenticeship down below at Swindon and Leeds and now doing as wonderful job at Brighton and has got them playing some wonderful football.

"Knowing the way they employ at Chelsea it will probably a foreign manager; Pellegrini at Malaga or Simeone at Atletico Madrid.

"I know for a fact they love Zola and Gianfranco's doing a wonderful job down at Watford and they look as though they might get promotion.

"I don't know if they would feel that was too early for them. I'd give Gus Poyet a go, loves the club to pieces and I think he would be a good choice."

Mourinho's Madrid beat United in the Champions League last-16 clash last week and has often spoken of his admiration for Ferguson who is in his 27th year at the club

After guiding Brighton to the League One title in his first full season in charge, Poyet has taken Albion to the Championship play-offs this term with his side playing some of the most attractive football in the second tier.

The Uruguayan scored 36 goals in 105 Chelsea appearances across four years at the club before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 2001.

Zola, currently at Watford, is another contender according to Wilkins and with the Italian having being voted the club's greatest ever player in 2003, would be welcomed with open arms at Chelsea.

The Hornets are currently in the race for automatic promotion with Zola having formed a squad made up of loan players and academy graduates.