Jose Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes insists his client is “fully committed” to Manchester United and has no intention of leaving Old Trafford any time soon.
Given his side’s Premier League struggles, the Portuguese’s future, happiness and relationship with players has rarely been far from the spotlight in recent months.
Mourinho is the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next top-flight manager to leave their post and woke up to a report on Friday that Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has been targeted to replace him next summer.
That story may be behind agent Mendes’ surprise – and rare – statement clarifying his client’s status on the eve of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Fulham.
“There have been more rumours of Jose Mourinho leaving Manchester United,” Mendes said in a statement released to Press Association Sport. “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.”
Mendes’ comment comes at an interesting time, especially given Mourinho’s agent did not publicly respond to the report that he would be sacked irrespective of the outcome of October’s clash with Newcastle.
Senior sources at the club strongly denied the story to Press Association Sport at the time and it is understood that the manager still retains the backing of the United hierarchy.
The 55-year-old has a contract with United until 2020, with an option for a further year, after signing a new and improved deal in January.
It is reported that the contract includes a clause that means it is cheaper to sack Mourinho if they fail to qualify for the Champions League.
Predecessors David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal paid for failing to reach European football’s top table.
This weekend Mourinho’s side takes on struggling Fulham in need of a timely Premier League boost, having seen the defeat at swashbuckling league leaders Manchester City followed by draws with Crystal Palace, Southampton and Arsenal.
That run leaves United in eighth spot behind the likes of Everton and Bournemouth, with an eye-watering eight-point gap to the top four.
Mourinho, now in his third season at Old Trafford, is also 18 points behind Pep Guardiola’s City – a side reportedly facing the threat of a UEFA ban from the Champions League surrounding alleged Financial Fair Play breaches.
Asked how long it would be until United challenged for the title again, the Portuguese said: “I don’t know because it depends on our evolution but also other’s evolution.
“If the ones above us keep going in the same direction and if their ambition, investment, everything is continuous, that’s one thing.
“Another thing is if they stop, or if the Financial Fair Play makes them stop and then we can close the gap a little bit better.”
So far behind are United that they are available at 750-1 to win this season’s Premier League with some bookies – little wonder with their defence faltering and attack often struggling.
“We need to score more goals,” Mourinho said when the potential of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard was mentioned.
“I think one thing is dynamics and happiness, routines adapted to the qualities of the players but in the end, what is the most important thing is the ball in the net, and goals, points and victories.
“That’s a good thing, and that’s a thing that I praise and something that the team needs and one of the reasons why in the last match we pressed high until we had legs for that – because people not playing football say they collapse in the last 15 and 20 minutes – but one of the reasons the team was up and pressing was the characteristics and desire of the attacking players.”
Mourinho said that the front trio “work very hard but it’s not about work, it’s about natural qualities”, while out-of-sorts forward Romelu Lukaku, dropped to the bench against Arsenal, is another option.
“(His performances) is something I feel comfortable to discuss with him, which I do,” he added.
“I am not so comfortable to discuss with you (the media).
“I think it is quite an easy job for you to analyse a player and performances, you have knowledge, experience, eyes and data. If you mix all this information, I think you can analyse.”