LONDON • It is a romantic scenario. Jose Mourinho in the directors' box at Old Trafford on Monday when the Red Devils host Chelsea, before being parachuted in as Manchester United manager and inspiring a dramatic charge to the Premier League title.
Yet it could turn into reality.
It was barely two weeks ago that senior figures at Old Trafford were floating the possibility of extending Louis van Gaal's contract beyond the end of next season, when his existing deal expires.
Now, the Dutchman may do well to see out the next 18 days, with possibly only two games remaining to save his job as United manager. He knows he must avoid defeat by Stoke City on Boxing Day and Chelsea two days later or he could be sacked.
He is also conscious of the demand from the Glazers, who own the club, that United should be serious contenders for the Premier League title this season. Eliminated from the Champions League and League Cup and having dropped out of the top four, United have won only four of their past 15 matches in all competitions.
Saturday's 2-1 defeat by Norwich City at Old Trafford was the first at home over 90 minutes this season.
The manager previously stated that if the squad are no longer behind him, he would walk away from the club. The Dutchman still believes they are. And defender Phil Jones backed that up.
"The manager is doing all he can and is doing a terrific job. It's not even questionable in the dressing room," he said. "The lads are absolutely fully focused on performing well for the manager, the fans, ourselves, week in, week out."
The England international added that the mood at Old Trafford was worse during David Moyes' ill-fated reign two years ago.
"I wouldn't say it's the lowest moment. I think it became pretty glum, if you like, under David Moyes and it was unfortunate. We weren't playing well at the time," he said.
Still, the sacking of Mourinho by Chelsea last week means United could appoint a coach considered to be one of the best in the world.
The Portuguese would seriously countenance taking over at United, having previously harboured a desire to do so before he began a second tenure at Chelsea.
One sticking point could be the reluctance of Bobby Charlton and Alex Ferguson to welcome him aboard. Mourinho believed he had a real chance of replacing Ferguson when the Scot retired in May 2013.
Yet, despite his public admiration for Mourinho, Ferguson was against his appointment, preferring Moyes instead.
Charlton, instrumental in Ferguson becoming manager in 1986 and still a director, was also not keen to offer the Portuguese the position.
Nevertheless, this is the third season since Ferguson has stepped down and his influence, in particular, has receded.
He is also a director but his role is largely ceremonial, with the majority of his work for the club coming as a global ambassador.
It clears the way for Mourinho to be appointed, should Ed Woodward wish.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE