Jose Mourinho has told friends he is increasingly confident about succeeding Louis van Gaal as Manchester United manager this summer.
Van Gaal has admitted in recent weeks he could be sacked if United miss out on Champions League qualification or fail to win the FA Cup.
United are running out of time in their battle to finish in the top four and trail Arsenal, who are fourth, by four points with five matches remaining. They also face Everton in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday.
The club's hierarchy are keeping tight-lipped about their intentions and refused to comment on reports in Germany on Sunday that Mourinho has agreed a three-year deal to take over at Old Trafford from the summer but the former Chelsea manager believes that is moving closer to becoming a reality.
Mourinho is known to have had a gentleman's agreement in place with United for the past few months although the precise details of that arrangement remain unclear. Van Gaal has not given up hope of seeing out the final year of his contract, but despite acknowledging the glut of injury problems the manager has had to contend with and his commitment to blooding youngsters, there is concern at the club about the poor results, dull, sterile football, lack of goals and failure to extract more from a squad that has had in excess of £250 million invested in it.
United won 1-0 at home to Aston Villa on Saturday courtesy of Marcus Rashford's seventh goal in 12 games but the one-paced football and lack of entertainment caused more exasperation among worried supporters.
If Van Gaal triumphed in the Cup, it would offer the opportunity to head into retirement on a relative high if United opted to dispense with his services but the Dutchman does not believe his superiors have made a definitive decision yet and thinks results over the next few weeks could still on a bearing on his future.
Despite his calamitous last season at Chelsea, when he was sacked in December seven months after winning the title with the club one point above the relegation zone, the prospect of Mourinho taking charge at Old Trafford would be tantalising in many respects, not least because it would see a renewal of his rivalry with Pep Guardiola. Guardiola, who succeeds Manuel Pellegrini as Manchester City manager in the summer, was in charge of Barcelona when Mourinho managed the Catalan club's bitter rivals, Real Madrid.
United are interested in signing Renato Sanches, Benfica's gifted young midfielder, and Everton centre-half John Stones this summer and they are targets Mourinho fully supports. Mourinho made a series of failed bids for Stones when at Chelsea and also tried and failed to bring Sanches to Stamford Bridge. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has admitted he would happily play under Mourinho at United with the club also weighing up a move for the Sweden striker, who is out of contract at Paris St-Germain at the end of the season.