Manchester United’s interest in hiring Jose Mourinho is one of the worst-kept secrets in football.
The Red Devils want the former Chelsea boss to replace Louis van Gaal and all the football world is waiting for is an announcement.
The delay has, of course, sparked panic with some United fans as they fear missing out on the Portuguese manager, who has been out of work since December.
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But fear not, United faithful. According to El Pais (as quoted by Sport Witness), Mourinho has signed a pre-contract agreement to replace Van Gaal and are simply holding off reporting the deal.
Sport Witness add that the reason for the delay is because United are testing Mourinho’s ability to be patient and keep his mouth shut.
That sort of makes sense, but a more plausible reason would be that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward doesn’t want to disrupt United’s season - which has improved drastically in recent weeks - by getting rid of Van Gaal.
The report goes on to state that a pre-contract includes a penalty clause if either Mourinho or United pulls out of the deal, but it’s hard to imagine that happening unless the Red Devils end the season on a miraculous high.
That said, even if Van Gaal guides his team to a Europa League and FA Cup double, he might still be out of a job.
United’s early-season form was truly disastrous and has left them needing to continue their hot form until May to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
According to El Pais, Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes, used Real Madrid’s interest in the manager to pressure United into a deal.
The agent, who also represents Cristiano Ronaldo, falsely negotiated a contract with Los Blancos in January but the talks stopped when the club’s director general Jose Angel Sanchez discovered the arrangement between United and Mourinho.
It’s another blow for the Spanish side after their title hopes vanished with a 1-0 defeat to rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday. The loss leaves Zinedine Zidane’s team 12 points behind leaders Barcelona and the Madrid boss fearing for his job.
Following the defeat, the 43-year-old told reporters (per Marca): “I have complete confidence in my players; I believe they will be behind me. Next year we'll probably have to make changes, maybe even change managers too, but whatever happens we have to keep going about our business.”
Zidane’s clear pessimism, combined with Cristiano Ronaldo’s post-game attack on his teammates, is a clear indication that all is not well at Los Blancos.
The Portuguese star said after the game: “If they were all as good as me, we'd probably be top,” as per Marca.
He later backtracked on his comments, telling the same paper: “When I say that, I am talking about my fitness level, not my level as a player. I am no better than any of my teammates.”
Whether Ronaldo’s teammates believe him or not remains to be seen. What is for certain, though, is that changes are coming.