NEW YORK -- The perception, first uttered early one California morning, was that Jerry Manuel might be no different than Willie Randolph. There was reason to believe that despite the fact that Manuel wore thick-rimmed glasses, read books about Gandhi and lovingly called his players "gangstas," he was at his core no different than the man the Mets had just dismissed.

Yet Manuel turned out to be quite different, leading the Mets with a unique style and a vastly more outgoing personality. Direct with his players, affable with the media, Manuel also enjoyed a different sort of success, leading his team temporarily to the top of the National League East.

He was an interim manager -- still is, actually -- but he often joked that all managers are interim at their core. And despite an SI.com report shortly after Sunday's game that the Mets planned to give their "interim" manager a two-year contract extension, Manuel continued to take nothing for granted.

"We haven't really talked about that," Manuel said. "Obviously, I'd have a great interest in a job such as this. This is probably one of the best places to be. I've had some great experiences, and they've got a lot of good things going for them here."

General manager Omar Minaya, despite an unwillingness to comment on Manuel's situation without first talking with team ownership, still took the time to praise his current manager.

"I think Jerry did a very good job coming into a very difficult situation," Minaya said. "I did tell him that I was very pleased. The job that he did, I thought was a very good job. And if you talk to the players, they would tell you that he did a very good job."

They did precisely that, praising Manuel in no uncertain terms.

"He should be back, because he's a great man," Carlos Beltran said. "He did everything possible to try to make us earn a spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we are the ones that go out there and decide what happens. But we feel that he did his part."

"Jerry is one of the best baseball minds in the game," David Wright said. "I'll forever owe Jerry quite a bit, not only for what he's taught me this year, but since he's been here."

Manuel led the Mets to a 55-38 record, keeping them in contention until the final day. By contrast, the team was 34-35 under Randolph before Manuel took the reins in June. Trailing by 6 1/2 games in the NL East at that point, Manuel led the Mets to a 3 1/2-game division lead at their high-water mark, before ultimately finishing three games back.

Minaya, who is reportedly negotiating a contract extension of his own, said that he would sit down with ownership at some point this week to discuss Manuel's future.

"My preference," Minaya said, "is to get this resolved quicker rather than later."