London (AFP) – Jose Mourinho was widely reported to be close to joining Manchester United on Monday as The Times said his agent was due in England for talks on replacing embattled manager Louis van Gaal.
British media have been awash with reports of van Gaal’s demise, after a leak from an unknown source spread as Manchester United lifted the FA Cup on Saturday.
The Dutchman cryptically commented, “It’s over” as he left the squad’s London hotel on Sunday, but it was not clear whether he was referring to his tenure or United’s season.
The BBC said van Gaal had not been informed whether he was staying for next season, although it said Saturday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace was believed to have been his last game.
The Times reported that he is fuming over his treatment by the club, adding that Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes was flying to England to “conclude negotiations” on a three-year contract.
There has been no official comment from the 20-time English champions, although the no-nonsense van Gaal was defiant after Saturday’s Cup final.
“I show you the cup and I don’t discuss it with my friends of the media, who already sacked me for six months,” the 64-year-old said.
“Which manager can do that, what I have done?”
Despite winning their first trophy since the great Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, van Gaal’s United didn’t challenge for the Premier League title and failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Fans were also unhappy with the brand of football their team played under van Gaal, which many felt ran counter to the club’s traditional attacking style.
Mourinho saw his second spell as Chelsea manager end with the sack in December, after last season’s champions made a miserable start to their Premier League title defence.
– Guardiola rivalry –
The Portuguese manager may have won trophies in several European leagues but has never stayed at one club longer than the three years and three months he racked up in his first spell with Chelsea.
Some media weren’t convinced about the apparently imminent appointment of the brash Portuguese, who despite his success has a reputation for alienating players and waging public feuds with adversaries.
If hired, Mourinho will arrive in Manchester at the same time as incoming Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, resuming their bitter rivalry from when they coached Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
But former United defender Phil Neville said even if Mourinho was only at Old Trafford for a brief time, he would bring silverware to the club.
“I can’t see him staying too long at Man United, maybe two or three years, that seems to be his shelf life at a football club,” Neville told BBC Radio on Sunday.
“When Jose finishes at a club it tends to be a pattern where he falls out with a few players, he gets disgruntled and the team dips.
“It happened at Chelsea, it certainly happened at Real Madrid where there were rumours he fell out with a few players.
“It’s a pattern with Jose, he comes into a club, he gets success but he doesn’t stay for too long.”
United have now failed to finish higher than fourth in the Premier League in any of the three seasons since legendary manager Alex Ferguson retired.
For a club of United’s stature that represents an embarrassing record but Neville believes Mourinho, who won three Premier League titles with Chelsea, can transform their fortunes.
“He’s a proven winner, a proven champion,” Neville said.
“United fans want a team that will challenge for the league title, not a team that finishes seventh or fifth, and Jose is probably the man for the job.”
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