Jose Mourinho’s position at the helm of Manchester United is not under immediate threat, senior figures at the club have said.
Weeks of speculation and scrutiny came to a head on Friday evening, when the Daily Mirror reported that the 55-year-old was set to be sacked, irrespective of the outcome of Saturday's Premier League clash with Newcastle.
Poor performances have been compounded by off-field problems during an uncomfortable start to the season at Old Trafford, with the relationship between Mourinho and star midfielder Paul Pogba creating unwanted headlines.
Last weekend’s 3-1 loss at West Ham made this United’s worst start to a league campaign in 29 years but senior sources at the club have strongly denied to Press Association Sport that the Portuguese will be fired this weekend.
Mourinho looks set to get the international break to turn things around after attempting to avoid a fifth successive match without a win when Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle visit Old Trafford.
Saturday’s fixture was already the subject of intense scrutiny, but the Mirror’s report has ramped that pressure up several more notches.
While it is understood that patience is wearing thin among the United hierarchy, the immediacy of Friday’s report sent ripples around the football world.
Gary Neville was asked about it after Sky Sports’ coverage of Friday’s match between Brighton and West Ham, with the former United favourite saying that “there is something rotten to the core”.
Neville accused the United board of “playing Football Manager with the biggest club in the world” and said “the tail is wagging the dog at the football club”.
Asked if it would be the right decision to sack Mourinho, he said after a long pause: “No. To be honest I’m furious.
“I’m furious going back three, four years ago when David Moyes was sacked, when it broke a day before to journalists.
“I think of Louis van Gaal being sacked the evening of a cup final and finding out from other people. I think about how the club’s been operated.
“If this is true, we don’t know if it’s true but if this is true and Jose Mourinho is going to walk out at Old Trafford tomorrow, as almost like a dead man walking, those fans will absolutely turn towards that boardroom. It’s unacceptable.
“And I have to say that Jose Mourinho will get the biggest support he’s ever had in his life tomorrow I think in that ground. And I’ll be there to give it to him.
“Because if this is true and it’s broken the day before it’s going to happen and he’s going to be sacked after the game or at the weekend, it’s an absolute disgrace.
“Where’s the values and the principles of Manchester United if this is true? That the journalists find out and it isn’t announced at the right time?
“At the end of the day this is now going on five or six years and I have to say that any manager — Jose Mourinho is one of the best managers in the world — and I think in this moment in time any manager would struggle in that football club, the way in which it operates.
“And enough is enough for me. I love that football club, I absolutely love it to death, it’s been my life, it’s given me everything, and I’m not turning on my football club, (but) I have to say something has to change and it isn’t the manager, it’s above that.
“And I’m furious that we’re stood here thinking that there’s a report that’s broken out... journalists don’t break stories of this nature unless they’re absolutely certain.
“I hope it’s not true, but if it is true I think it’s an absolute disgrace.”