Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is reportedly confident he can save his job at Old Trafford if he can propel his side into the Premier League's top four by the end of the campaign.
The Red Devils are fifth, six points back from fourth-placed Manchester City and in danger of missing out on Champions League football next season, which has only increased speculation that Jose Mourinho will take over in the summer, per the Mirror's David Anderson and Darren Lewis.
According to the Sun's Charlie Wyett, however: "Van Gaal believes he will keep his job if United finish in the top four."
Should Van Gaal keep his job if United secure a top-four finish in the Premier League this season?
Meanwhile, MailOnline's Chris Wheeler reported that the Dutchman retains the support of Old Trafford executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, but "that may change if United fail to secure a Champions League place."
Certainly there is historical evidence to suggest that qualification for Europe's premier club competition is the key to keeping the top job with the Red Devils.
David Moyes' calamitous reign as Sir Alex Ferguson's immediate successor was brought to an end in April 2014 as soon as Champions League qualification became a mathematical impossibility after a defeat to Everton.
And the financial benefits of qualifying for the tournament were brought into further focus on Thursday with the announcement of United's revenues from the last three months of 2015, which had significantly increased (26.6 per cent) on the same period last year, partially down to their participation in the Champions League group stage, per the Associated Press' Rob Harris:
No reason the Man United financial results shouldn't be healthy given they were back in the Champs Lge group stage - before being eliminated— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) February 11, 2016
If Van Gaal can engineer a strong run of performances in the last 13 matches of the Premier League season and guide his side into the top four, he may well stay in the top job and move into the final year of his contract.
However, there is seemingly no guarantee, as the clamour surrounding Mourinho's potential appointment has been on the rise, with Anderson and Lewis' report indicating the former Chelsea boss has already agreed personal terms "in principle" with United.
Van Gaal rejected any idea the United hierarchy have been in contact with the Portuguese in an interview with Mark Ogden of the Independent:
I have not said that we have spoken, but [Mourinho] is my friend, so there you go. But I don’t know if Manchester United have spoken with Mourinho or not.
I can only say that I have spoken with [United’s executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward and I cannot imagine that they have spoken with each other. I think that if they speak with another manager, they would tell me because our relationship is like that. But I think that, if they want to change, they have to prepare themselves. That is also a professional attitude, in my opinion.
BBC Sport's Dan Roan and Simon Stone, though, previously reported that contact has been made with Mourinho's representatives as United are "keen to respond after Manchester City secured the services of coveted former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola."
Bleacher Report's Dean Jones believes Mourinho would be a good fit:
And based on a Twitter poll run by the Manchester Evening News' James Robson, there is support for the move from the United fans:
Do United fans want Mourinho?— James Robson (@JamesRobsonMEN) February 11, 2016
Not only have the results been poor this season under Van Gaal, but the style of play he has installed has also been heavily criticised.
Results and performances have improved of late, though—United have lost just one of their last nine matches in all competitions.
A top-four finish is looking unlikely, though, and despite what Van Gaal reportedly believes, he may yet be shown the door even if he secures the club Champions League qualification.