Saturday 1 October 2016

Mourinho set to replace LVG at United - with superstar Ibrahimovic likely to follow him

Mark Ogden

Published 23/05/2016 | 02:30

Louis VAN GAAL'S fate as Manchester United manager is set to be sealed today, with the club's American owners due to rubber-stamp his departure - two days after the club won the FA Cup at Wembley.

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Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan coach, is set to take charge at Old Trafford on a three-year deal.

With Joel, Bryan and Avram Glazer all at Wembley to witness the victory against Crystal Palace, which was sealed by Jesse Lingard's extra-time goal, the three United directors are understood to be planning to resolve Van Gaal's situation at a meeting in London, which will also involve executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Mourinho, who was in London to attend a David Haye fight at the O2 Arena, will take charge of United once Van Gaal's departure is confirmed by the club.

His first game in charge is likely to be against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on June 22, before facing neighbours Manchester City and their new coach, Pep Guardiola, in Beijing three days later.

United are determined to ensure Van Gaal's departure is handled in a dignified manner, with the Dutchman's contract paid for the remaining year of its duration.

The former Ajax, Bayern Munich and Barcelona coach could yet be offered an ambassadorial role by the club.

Replace

The hierarchy have been impressed by the work he has done behind the scenes at Old Trafford.

However, after finishing fifth in the Premier League this season, and therefore missing out on the Champions League, United have decided to replace the Dutchman with Mourinho.

Van Gaal refused to discuss his future as United manager after Saturday's match.

"I show you the cup," he said. "I don't discuss it with my friends in the media, who have sacked me in the past six months.

"You had followed the board? I don't want to talk about leaving the club.

"I'm very proud to be the first after Sir Alex Ferguson to win a trophy for Manchester United. I have made a photograph with him because that is history.

"It is fantastic to win this title for the club, for the fans, and also for me - because I now have won the cup in four countries, and not many managers have done that."

Van Gaal insisted that United's extra-time winner, through Lingard, epitomised his team's spirit in the cup this season.

"In spite of being down to 10 players we showed spirit in this final," he said. "Against Sheffield United at home we scored in the last minute. We fight to the end.

"Against West Ham United, we were behind at home and we scored an equaliser in the last minutes of the game.

"Then we won away. Again, against Everton in the last minute.

"You do that on the road to the final and you prove it again with 10 against 11. We played more or less with the same team - you can be very proud as a Manchester United manager and fan."

Van Gaal responded by saying: "No, no, it's over", when asked for a comment by a Sky Sports reporter yesterday as he left the Corinthia Hotel in central London, where the United squad had stayed and celebrated long into the night before travelling back to Manchester by train with his players and staff.

But Van Gaal is said to have been referring to his side's season rather than his own job, and it is thought Woodward had yet to inform him of his fate.

Despite the Cup triumph, United failed to qualify for the Champions League, scoring just 49 goals en route to a fifth-placed league finish, and Van Gaal's risk-averse style of football has alienated fans and baffled players, several of whom were ready to consider their futures in the event the manager stayed.

Goalkeeper David de Gea is expected to stay at Old Trafford now Van Gaal is going, and the Spaniard is likely to be joined at the club by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who should form part of another significant summer of investment in the squad.

Ibrahimovic will leave PSG as a free agent after failing to agree a new 12-month extension with the French champions, and the Sweden striker - who is eager to play in the Premier League - has been enthused by the prospect of a reunion with Mourinho.

In contrast to his relationship with Van Gaal, with whom he fell out at Ajax, Ibrahimovic has a close connection with Mourinho dating back to their time together at Inter Milan, when they won the Italian championship in 2009 before the player left for Barcelona.

Ibrahimovic has already spurned a hugely lucrative offer to join the Chinese Super League and LA Galaxy have also been keen to sign the 34-year-old - but he would prefer to move to the MLS after playing at least one season in England.

Importantly, United are prepared to meet his wage demands.

The Swede is believed to have been asking for a salary equivalent to the £300,000-a-week after-tax deal he earned at PSG.

Ibrahimovic aside, United believe Mourinho's arrival will enhance their prospects of attracting leading players, which has been hampered to some degree by the club's failure to qualify for the Champions League for a second time in three seasons.

One concern for United, though, is the forthcoming full public employment tribunal of former Chelsea doctor, Eva Carneiro. Carneiro's constructive dismissal case against Chelsea is due to be heard on June 6 and could prove publicly damaging to Mourinho.

Criticism

Wingers Adnan Januzaj and Memphis Depay, who reacted badly to being omitted from the Cup final squad, have both received criticism about their attitudes and will have to convince Mourinho they deserve to stay.

Meanwhile, Everton are due to hold talks this week with Unai Emery after the Sevilla coach emerged as a leading contender to replace Roberto Martínez as manager at Goodison Park.

Emery led Sevilla to a third successive Europa League title last Wednesday, when the Spanish club beat Everton's fierce Merseyside rivals Liverpool 3-1 in the final in Switzerland.

David Moyes is the front-runner to take over at Aston Villa after meeting the club's prospective new owner Dr Tony Xia. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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