LONDON (THE GUARDIAN) - Manchester United have until the start of May to make a formal move for Jose Mourinho should they want him to replace Louis van Gaal, as the Portuguese is intent on securing his next managerial position by then.
Ed Woodward, the United executive vice-chairman, has so far ignored Mourinho's availability and refused to sack van Gaal. This is partly a show of support to the Dutchman by Woodward and the Glazer family, who own United, but it also suggests the executive is undecided regarding Mourinho's candidacy.
The former Chelsea manager continues to listen to job offers but has so far refused these as he would seriously consider taking over at United. Because of the continued backing of van Gaal by the club, Mourinho has been careful not to push himself forward for the United position, and has been content to wait.
The Premier League's unpredictability means United appear likely to take their challenge to finish in the top four until the end of the season in mid-May. If so van Gaal is likely to remain as manager until then, even if Woodward decides he wants a change for next term.
Yet by that juncture Mourinho would hope to have had a clear approach from United. In that event a pre-contract agreement may be signed before any van Gaal departure.
In March United were knocked out of the Europa League at the last-16 stage by Liverpool. But Van Gaal's side remain in the FA Cup - they have a replay at West Ham United on Apr 13 - and the 1-0 victory over Manchester City before the international break moved them to within a point of the final Champions League berth.
Mourinho has been unemployed since Chelsea sacked him in December. He wants a new position lined up in time to start planning for next season. The summer window opens until July 1 but Mourinho is conscious that transfer strategy begins in earnest as domestic campaigns near their end.