Jose Mourinho increasingly confident of getting Man United job - sources
Jose Mourinho and his representatives are increasingly confident he will be Manchester United manager next season, sources have told ESPN FC, with talks ongoing though a deal has yet to be signed.
The Portuguese's camp now believe there is significant enthusiasm for his appointment among key members of the Old Trafford hierarchy, with Louis van Gaal expected to leave in the summer.
However, that enthusiasm is not yet unanimous among the United ownership, and a source said that one of the Glazer family admires the work of Mauricio Pochettino, who currently has Tottenham Hotspur in third place in the Premier League.
Some of the United board are concerned about Manchester City's appointment of Pep Guardiola, and that has only strengthened a growing feeling that Mourinho is one of few managers with the CV and ability to guarantee properly competing with the Catalan coach.
Lines of communication had already been opened between Old Trafford and the Portuguese's representatives when he was sacked by Chelsea in late December, and ESPN FC reported two weeks ago that he was confident a "detailed charm offensive" would help secure the job.
ESPN FC has been told by sources close to all parties that confidence has only increased since then, and that talks have been ongoing.
It is because of City's appointment of Guardiola and the previous failure of David Moyes in the 2013-14 season that United are highly unlikely to appoint another manager untested at the elite level, and that is one reason why current assistant Ryan Giggs is doubtful to be installed, despite the support of some at board level.
There remains debate about the identity of the next manager among the United hierarchy, and Pochettino's name has been broached as a compromise option. Sources said one of the Glazers is said to think even more highly of the Argentine than that, and especially in the way he has gotten the best out of a Tottenham team with relatively limited funds.
Again, though, there is the lingering sense that Pochettino is not yet fully ready for the job -- given the challenge of competing with a Guardiola-fired City -- and that he may be better suited after two or three seasons' more experience.
A further factor is that United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has a very strong relationship with Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes.
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Sources say Woodward is still determined to keep Van Gaal in the job until the end of the season for a variety of reasons, and there is still a belief he can get Champions League football, especially with the recent up-turn in performance level, though the club remain five points out of the top four.
The Dutch coach is increasingly likely to go in the summer, though, and some at United also feel such a move will be necessary for new acquisitions. If United were to stick to the original plan of keeping Van Gaal until 2017, it would be harder to sell the club to prospective signings, when the manager would have to be changed in a year.
That is another factor in Mourinho's favour, given that his name and reputation still carry significant weight with players.