LONDON, May 4 (Reuters) - Steve McClaren was appointed Sven-Goran Eriksson's successor as England manager on Thursday, six days after his dream job looked to be heading to a high profile foreign rival.
The Middlesbrough manager, who made his name as right-hand man to Eriksson and Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, will take over when the Swede steps down after the World Cup finals in Germany, the Football Association announced.
'This is the biggest honour that any coach can have and is obviously the highlight of my career,' said McClaren, who has signed a four-year contract from Aug. 1, taking him up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
'It's a massive challenge and one that I welcome. I have hugely enjoyed my time at Middlesbrough and am very grateful to the club. However, this was an opportunity I couldn't refuse.'
His appointment comes six days after 2002 World Cup-winning Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari, the FA's first choice, pulled out of contention because of media intrusion.
McClaren, 45 on Wednesday, had piloted Middlesbrough into next week's UEFA Cup final against Seville the day before Scolari's withdrawal.
Eriksson, the first foreigner to coach England, said: 'I have worked closely with Steve ever since I came to England and know how good a coach he is. He is well-liked and well-respected by the players and staff.
'I have no doubt that he has all the credentials to be very successful in the job and wish him all the best.'
McClaren secured the top job after seeing off English coaches Sam Allardyce and Alan Curbishley, plus Northern Irishman Martin O'Neill. After an undistinguished playing career as a midfielder, McClaren began coaching in the early 1990s at Oxford United.
He moved on to Derby County where he worked under experienced manager Jim Smith and helped the club win promotion to the Premier League in 1996.
McClaren, his reputation growing fast, was then lured to Manchester United as Ferguson's deputy and helped the club win the treble of European Cup, Premier League and FA Cup in 1999.
While at United, following Kevin Keegan's resignation as England manager in 2000, McClaren joined forces with Peter Taylor in temporary charge of the national team.
In March 2001, United refused to allow him to continue with England and later that year he was appointed Middlesbrough's manager in succession to Bryan Robson.
'Steve has a knowledge of that (England) staff and of the players so I hope he does well because it's not an easy job,' Fergsuson said just hours before McClaren's appointment.
'He's always been one who has had visions for developing things. When he was at Derby and I spoke to two or three people who had worked under him they said that he is a very progressive coach and that's what I found with him.'
McClaren gave Boro a prolonged period of stability and in 2004 he enjoyed a double boost, returning to the England ranks to assist Eriksson and steering Middlesbrough to success in the League Cup, their first major trophy in 128 years.
McClaren's status was further enhanced when Middlesbrough finished seventh in the league last year, their best finish since 1951 and securing a second successive season in Europe.
This season has been a rollercoaster for McClaren.
A host of injuries to key players and a 7-0 defeat at Arsenal in mid-January left him at rock bottom.
But a 3-0 win over champions Chelsea sparked a spectacular revival in fortunes and the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals and next week's UEFA Cup final against Sevilla.
Boro looked dead and buried early in the second legs of both their quarter- and semi-final in the UEFA Cup before McClaren substituted defenders with attackers and saw his side produce four-goal comebacks in both games to go through.