Jose Mourinho is reportedly "confident" he'll be appointed Manchester United manager next season, according to a Saturday report by Miguel Delaney of the Independent on Sunday. Delaney wrote how "Mourinho’s representatives believe the club is ready to hand the job to their client after recent discussions—though no deal is yet fully done."
Delaney had previously reported on Jan. 23 that Mourinho sent a six-page letter to the United hierarchy, outlining his suitability for the job, a story flatly dismissed by the Portuguese coach's agent, Jorge Mendes, via a statement, (h/t Samuel Stevens of the Independent).
For his part, Mourinho has revealed he intends to make a quick return to management, and he also hinted that return will be in England. Speaking during an interview with GQ Magazine's Jason Barlow (h/t Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror), Mourinho addressed his immediate future in the game:
To be fully happy I need everything, so I go back to football. I think it’s my natural habitat. I have worked since I can remember, and as a manager since 2000. For sure, I will be back soon.
At this moment I don’t have a job, and I don’t know where football will take me, because in football you never know. But for sure for sure for sure, as a family, our home will still be England.
After his recent struggles at Chelsea, which saw him sacked amid a disappointing Premier League title defence, Mourinho referenced how hard achieving sustained success in football can be: "If you don’t react, if you believe that just because you won in one year that you are going to win again, it’s very difficult."
He also insisted he still has lots to learn as a manager: "I have always to learn. Even in football, which is an area in which I feel I am an expert, I am never perfect and I will always learn."
Mourinho's response to some uncharacteristic struggles in his career will determine the success of his next job, whether he ends up at United, as the current reports suggest, or not.
Delaney's latest claims follow a Friday report from Dan Roan and Simon Stone of BBC Sport suggesting talks have already taken place between Mourinho's people and the Old Trafford club about the ex-Chelsea boss succeeding Dutchman Louis van Gaal.
Stone portrayed his findings as mere due diligence by United's board amid what's been a tough and generally mediocre season so far: "The fact is, given the pressure Louis van Gaal has been under recently, United's hierarchy simply would not be doing their jobs properly if they did not at least get some idea of the thinking behind the major candidates."
But Mourinho's apparent confidence suggests these preliminary talks are more than a what-if scenario for the Red Devils. In fact, Delaney stated talks have been ongoing for "well over a month."
He also revealed that Mourinho has only been left in limbo because United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward "doesn't want to make any change until the summer."
Interestingly, he also noted how there is still some lingering opposition to bringing in Mourinho, always a controversial figure, to Old Trafford: "There does remain some opposition to the Portuguese among the Old Trafford hierarchy, and the Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has been suggested by some as a 'compromise option.'"
Delaney claimed one member of the Glazer family, who own United, is enamoured with Mauricio Pochettino, but there are concerns over the Tottenham Hotspur gaffer's ability to win at the highest level. It seems United don't want another David Moyes-style fiasco and remain keen to counter Manchester City's hiring of Pep Guardiola.
Sky Sports' pundit Jamie Redknapp (h/t Luke Gardener of the Daily Star) believes hiring Mourinho is the best way to respond to City's pending high-profile managerial change.
Yet, not everyone is convinced. BBC Sport's Phil McNulty noted how a traditionally pragmatic coach would likely have to alter his style and philosophy at Old Trafford: "The shadow of the flamboyant, all-out attack of the Ferguson era has hung heavily over both Moyes and Van Gaal, and there will be pressure on Mourinho to alter his usual functional template."
But it seems some of United's current players are not concerned by how Mourinho approaches games. Midfield playmaker Ander Herrera is among them, according to Spanish publication Marca (h/t James Robson of the Manchester Evening News): “I don’t think Mourinho is a defensively minded coach. I saw his Chelsea side play some very good football."
Meanwhile, Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph revealed how United club ambassador Sir Bobby Charlton "has never been enamoured by Mourinho’s self-absorption."
But whatever the concerns about style points and image might be, if United really fear being left behind by their neighbours, the club may find Mourinho's trophy-laden resume too good to overlook.