LONDON • Louis van Gaal is being encircled by Chelsea managers past and present.
As the Manchester United manager's touchline rivalry with the Blues' interim boss Guus Hiddink resumes, British media are reporting that United's hierarchy have made an approach for Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho has been strongly linked with the Old Trafford post since being sacked by Chelsea in December and the BBC and Manchester Evening News claim discussions have started with a view to the Portuguese coach taking over at the end of this season.
Van Gaal has endured stinging criticism from former United players and the club's fans for his conservative tactics, with reports suggesting he was twice talked out of quitting by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward earlier this term.
Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes is said to have spoken to United over the last two weeks, increasing the likelihood he will take charge of the English giants after being ignored for the role when Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, due to concerns in the Old Trafford boardroom about his volatile personality.
Yet Mourinho's love of confrontations could be just what United need after rivals Manchester City announced that Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola will succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season.
If former Real Madrid chief Mourinho did take the United job, it would once again put him in direct competition with former Barcelona boss Guardiola after the pair were arch-rivals in Spain.
Mourinho's mind games and antics constantly got under Guardiola's skin, with the Spaniard once telling a press conference: "In the press room he is 'el puto jefe' (the f***ing boss) and the one who knows more than everyone else."
Clasicos after Mourinho arrived at Madrid in 2010 were clashes that Guardiola said he never enjoyed.
"I don't have good memories of the Madrid-Barca games - neither the victories nor the defeats - there were always other things that took away from the football," he had complained.
Should Mourinho take over the Old Trafford reins, there will no doubt be added spice at the Manchester derbies.
The BBC, however, said no agreement has been reached between the 53-year-old and United yet, with no comments from the club.
Mourinho is believed to prefer to take over in the close season when he can start with a clean slate, rather than inheriting van Gaal's problems with no chance of changing the squad now that the transfer window has shut.
The pressure on van Gaal has intensified since United suffered an embarrassing exit from the Champions League at the group stage. United have fared little better in recent weeks and are currently five points adrift of the Premier League's top four heading into today's clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Van Gaal's immediate challenge is to out-think Hiddink, who has yet to taste defeat since replacing Mourinho in December.
The two Dutchmen have met seven times in three countries, having also gone head-to-head in Spain's La Liga and the Netherlands' Eredivisie. Hiddink has lost to van Gaal just once, back in February 1999.
Their sides have drawn on two occasions, including Chelsea's visit to Old Trafford in December.