Carlisle United chief executive Nigel Clibbens says the club have already been contacted by "dozens" of contenders to replace Keith Curle as manager.

The director said the Blues want to "crack on" with the process of finding their next boss.

Clibbens said United are inviting applications rather than headhunting Curle's successor and are open-minded about who may come forward.

That is likely to cool talk that bookies' favourite Neil McDonald is in line for the post.

Indeed, the News & Star understands that United's manager from 2006/7, who has attended several recent Carlisle games, is NOT now a leading contender.

Clibbens would not comment on any individual names who could be in the frame, on a day when it emerged ex-Blues striker Michael Bridges was keen on the position.

The chief executive said he expected anyone interested to come forward in the next week, with a longlist and shortlist then to be drawn up, followed by interviews.

Clibbens said: "We will do it as soon as we can. We know there are all kinds of reasons to do it quickly. We will be doing our best to make sure that happens.

"It's a good opportunity to see what's out there. The fact Keith is willing to look after the team [for the final two games] while this happens gives us space to do that.

"There is lots of interest and some interesting candidates already coming forward, and maybe some surprises."

Curle, who takes the team to Port Vale for his final away game this afternoon (Vale Park, 3pm), has told his players that a new boss could be watching them today and next Saturday, and that they should be out to impress.

Clibbens said the club wanted a new boss who would embrace the challenge of leading United to success on what is likely to be a reduced budget in 2018/19.

"We will be doing our bet to give supporters an appointment that gets them excited and takes the club forward," he added.

Asked if evens favourite McDonald had put himself forward, Clibbens said: "I'm not going to comment about any individual manager whether he has thrown his hat into the ring or not.

"If they want to talk publicly, they can, but it's not something the club is going to do.

"I know one or two have made public their interest already, for their own reasons."

McDonald's appearance in the directors' seats for United's last two games had sparked strong debate.

Clibbens denied the club were guilty of "disrespecting" Curle by allocating the former manager such a prominent seat while his future was in doubt, but said he "regretted" any situation that could be interpreted that way.

"My personal opinion is this - it is custom and practice that former managers, when they ask for a ticket, the club will give them one, and generally they are sat, as a mark of respect, in the directors' box," Clibbens said.

"That has been fastened onto, no doubt about it, and has been seen in some quarters as the club in some way disrespecting Keith.

"He knows first-hand that is not the case - we would never do that.

"[But] do I regret that? Absolutely, yes. If faced with that, I would intervene to stop that happening again."