Jose Mourinho is staying at Manchester United and remains fully committed to the job at Old Trafford, his agent insisted yesterday.
Mourinho’s future has come under intense scrutiny during a difficult third season, with Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino widely tipped to replace him next summer.
But Mourinho’s representative Jorge Mendes took the unusual step yesterday of issuing a statement claiming United are happy with the 55-year-old after handing him a contract extension until 2020 in January.
‘There have been more rumours of Jose Mourinho leaving Manchester United,’ said Mendes. ‘It’s totally untrue. Jose is very happy at the club and the club is very happy with him.
‘He has a long-term contract with Manchester United and is fully committed to the club in building a solid winning project.’
United are eighth, eight points off the top four, and without a win in four league games.
They have a negative goal difference going into today’s clash with bottom-of-the-table Fulham at Old Trafford. Defeat would heap more pressure on Mourinho, whose relationship with a number of players has deteriorated.
Sportsmail understands some of them claim to have kept him in a job by coming back to earn 2-2 draws with Arsenal and Southampton in the last week.
Yesterday, Mourinho was reluctant to apportion blame for United’s lack of improvement after finishing second to Manchester City last season.
‘It’s reality’ said the Portuguese, ‘the consequences of many things. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s somebody’s fault.
‘Last season we finished second and I felt we stayed ahead of teams with more potential than us. I did a fantastic job.’
However, Mourinho warned it will be difficult for United to challenge for the title until City are forced to curb their spending.
The 20-time champions have not won the title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in 2013, while City are on course to win it for the fourth time in eight years.
City are facing a new investigation over claims they broke UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, and Mourinho believes a clampdown on their rivals’ spending could be the only way for United to regain power.
‘It depends on our evolution but also the evolution of others,’ he said.‘If the ones above us keep going in same direction and if their ambition and investment is continuous, that’s one thing. Another thing is if they stop, or if the Financial Fair Play makes them stop, then we can close the gap a little bit better.’
For so long the big spenders of English football, United are being eclipsed by City, who have paid close to £530million for players since Pep Guardiola took over in the summer of 2016 compared to the £380m spent under Mourinho in the same period.
Some fans may question whether that can justify an 18-point gap between the clubs after just 15 games of the season or explain why United lie a place below Bournemouth. At the end of a week in which he benched his most expensive players, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, Mourinho was asked about his reluctance to play big summer signing Fred.
United beat City to sign the Brazilian from Shakhtar Donetsk for £52m, but he has started three of the last 14 games and was left out of the squad for the draw with Arsenal on Wednesday.
Mourinho’s response said as much about the 25-year-old’s defensive discipline as it did about the shortcomings of the rest of his players, with United having conceded more goals than any club outside the bottom five.
‘When the team doesn’t need in midfield people who are more worried in giving some balance to the team than being involved in creation and the attacking dynamic, the day we are stronger defensively, the horizons for Fred will change completely,’ he said.
‘You have also other players in other clubs that needed their time, and you have some of them that played even less than what Fred is playing.’