Jose Mourinho's ascension to Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United throne has been one that has appeared inevitable ever since the Portuguese claimed the Premier League title at the first attempt with Chelsea.
Mourinho, of course, moved to Stamford Bridge a Champions League winner the previous season with Porto, and his madcap celebrations as the Dragões dumped United out of the competition brought him to the attention of the mainstream.
Yet, the way in which he immediately transformed an expensively assembled Chelsea squad into a metronomic winning machine reinforced Mourinho's claims that he was indeed a bit special.
It soon became apparent that, away from Chelsea, Manchester United the only club in England worthy to house a manager of such supreme talents and Mourinho's fate has long since predetermined.
Ever since he left União de Leiria for Porto in 2002, the only way in Mourinho's career has been up and, with a move to Barcelona surely out of the question, Old Trafford represents the only logical step from the Santiago Bernabeu.
With Ferguson widely expected to end his unparalleled reign in Manchester in 2014, Mourinho will unquestionably be the leading candidate to succeed the 70-year-old when the opportunity arises.
But nothing in football is never certain, and a path that once seemed clear for Mourinho to replace Ferguson, could be blocked by former's apparent commitment to Real Madrid.
Following his success in Madrid last year, after a season in which Real broke new ground in terms of points gained and goals scored as they romped to the Spanish title, Mourinho signed a new four year contract with the club.
The 49-year-old is now tied to Los Blancos until 2016 and, although the conditions of a contract have never got in his way before, Mourinho has been quick to reiterate his commitment in light of more recent links to United.
“I will go where people really want me and, when that moment arrives, they show me they really want me," he said when asked about his next move.
“But I have to repeat always this: I am at Real Madrid. I like very much to be (there)."
Speaking to AS, Mourinho added: "I signed here for four years, and if we signed it, we signed it to do so.
"My intention is to keep winning and keep making a fantastic team with its own identity and, in my opinion, [fantastic] football."
There is no upwards move from Real Madrid, with Manchester United representing a sidewards step, and Mourinho is likely to be offered the opportunity to make it in two years. It would be the proverbial no-brainer from any other club but Real.
But the likelihood of Mourinho taking the position is not as cut and dry as it once was, although he has expressed a desire to manage in England again in the future.
Mourinho has made a habit of walking out on contracts in the past and could quite easily tear up his agreement with Real Madrid in order to join Manchester United.
However, with every display of commitment to his current employers and with every future success in Madrid, a move that once seemed inevitable becomes clouded by uncertainty.
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