LONDON (AFP) - Jose Mourinho's representatives have held talks with Manchester United about replacing Louis van Gaal as manager of the English Premier League club, according to reports on Friday.
He 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 that 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.
The 53-year-old 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 the transfer window has shut.
The BBC said no agreement has been reached between Mourinho and United, with the club making no comment.
However, Woodward and owners the Glazer family are believed to be keen to line up a major managerial coup after watching Bayern Munich's much-prized coach Pep Guardiola agree to take over at hated neighbours Manchester City at the end of the season.
If ex-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 during their time in Spain.
Mourinho was axed by Chelsea just months after leading them to the Premier League title, with the Blues languishing near the relegation zone following the breakdown of his relationship with several members of the squad.
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 10 points behind Premier League leaders Leicester and five points adrift of the top four heading into Sunday's clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.