SUNDERLAND’S managerial search descended into farce last night as Derek McInnes dramatically rejected an offer to take over at the Stadium of Light and opted to remain with Aberdeen.

Despite having spent almost a month assessing their options in the wake of David Moyes’ departure, the Black Cats were unable to secure the services of their preferred candidate even though they were willing to more than double his wages in an attempt to lure him from the Scottish Premier League.

The failure is a personal embarrassment for chief executive Martin Bain, who had championed McInnes’ candidature and spent the first half of the week negotiating a compensation agreement with Aberdeen officials.

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Bain successfully sanctioned Jordan Pickford’s £30m departure to Everton yesterday – a move that made the Washington-born 23-year-old the most expensive British goalkeeper in history -  but has been unable to secure the services of a new manager with Sunderland’s players due to return to pre-season training before the end of the month.

Having also failed to land Garry Monk, who spurned the Black Cats’ advances in order to join Middlesbrough, Bain could now turn to Simon Grayson, with the Preston manager understood to be willing to take over at the Stadium of Light.

McInnes’ reluctance to swap Aberdeen for Sunderland suggests he was deeply unhappy with the budget he was being offered this summer, although with Black Cats owner Ellis Short involved in potential takeover talks, he could also have been worried about his job security in the event of a new owner assuming control of the club.

His wages were not a problem, and the financial practicalities of the deal had been agreed with the Aberdeen board, but problems are believed to have emerged when discussions with Bain turned to the issue of this summer’s transfer window.

Sunderland have lost 12 players since the end of last season, and an extensive rebuild is required if they are to compete at the top end of the Championship next season.

McInnes was aware that significant funds would be needed, but even though Short banked £30m from Pickford’s sale yesterday, the Irish-American businessman does not want to increase Sunderland’s £110m debt while he is involved in talks that could lead to a sale of the club.

Worries over a lack of financial support were a major factor in Moyes’ decision to walk away at the end of last season, and McInnes clearly felt his career would best be served by remaining at Pittodrie even though Aberdeen have lost three of their most influential performers from last season and are set to sell their star player, Jonny Hayes, to Celtic.

“I have ambitions in the game, and while there was interest from elsewhere, and I did talk to Sunderland, I feel there is so much still to be done here at Aberdeen,” said McInnes. “While we have lost players from last season, they will be replaced by signings of similar quality and our first challenge is to reach the group stages of the Europa League after coming so close in each of the last three seasons.”

McInnes’ decision was understandably welcomed by Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne, who must have expected to lose his manager once he reluctantly gave him permission to speak to Sunderland.

“I am personally absolutely delighted that Derek and Tony (Docherty, his assistant) have agreed to stay and have never doubted their commitment to the club,” said Milne. “Given what Derek has achieved here, there is inevitably going to be interest from other clubs and in making the decision to stay, he has demonstrated how much Aberdeen Football Club means to him.

“It is now up to all of is, the board, staff, players and supporters to show how much we appreciate having him at the helm by getting right behind him in every way possible.

“I make no bones about it,  it would have been a massive blow to lose Derek at this time, not only when we are about to embark on the new season, but knowing that so much more can be achieved with them driving the club forward.”

Last night’s dramatic developments overshadowed Pickford’s British-record move to Everton, with the Washington-born goalkeeper signing a five-year deal at Goodison Park.

Gianluigi Buffon and Ederson are the only goalkeepers in history to have commanded a higher fee, with Pickford leaving Sunderland after a solitary season in the senior squad.

“Our aim is to produce more players of the calibre of Jordan in the future,” said Bain, in a statement. “His development is testament to our academy set-up and its hard-working staff, past and present, who identified and nurtured his exceptional talent.

“Everyone at Sunderland wishes Jordan every success in the next stage of his career, which we will follow keenly.”

Having joined Sunderland’s academy at the age of eight, Pickford signed his first professional contract in 2011 and spent time on loan at Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston before breaking into the Black Cats’ senior squad.

He made his Premier League debut in January 2016, and while he started last season on the substitutes’ bench behind Vito Mannone, he was promoted to the Black Cats’ starting line-up for the third game of the campaign and did not look back.

He earned his maiden call-up to England’s senior squad last October, and is currently preparing to represent England Under-21s in the European Championships in the Czech Republic.

“It’s great to sign,” said Pickford. “Last season was my first in the Premier League, so to get this opportunity with Everton now, to be able to go forward with my career and show everyone what I can do with Everton, is unbelievable.

“It’s a great club, a massive club, and I think it’s a great opportunity and the right time for me to come to Everton and show what I can do.”