Louis Van Gaal’s time as manager of Manchester United appeared to be nearing its end on Monday, amid reports that agreement on a severance package was all that stood in the way of his exit from Old Trafford.
Both Van Gaal and leading employment lawyer Paul Gilroy were seen entering United’s Carrington training ground on Monday following reports that former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was poised to replace the Dutchman.
Gilroy’s clients have included David Moyes, whose sacking as United manager paved the way for Van Gaal’s appointment.
There has been no official confirmation as yet from United, 20-times English champions, about the position of Van Gaal, who still has a season remaining on his three-year contract.
But James Ducker, the northern football correspondent of Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, tweeted on Monday: “Paul Gilroy QC finalising Van Gaal’s severance package now…£5m pay off.”
Meanwhile The Times’ Paul Hirst said United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had already informed Van Gaal of his dismissal.
“Sounds like Woodward actually told LVG in person last (Sunday) night that he was sacked,” Hirst tweeted.
The BBC said United would make a statement about Van Gaal at 1pm local time (1200 GMT) but several hours later there was still no word from the club.
British media have been awash with reports of Van Gaal’s demise, after a leak from an unknown source spread as Manchester United lifted the FA Cup on Saturday.
The Dutchman cryptically commented, “It’s over” as he left the squad’s Cup final hotel on Sunday, but it was not clear whether he was referring to his tenure or United’s season.
The BBC said Van Gaal had not been informed whether he was staying for next season, although it said Saturday’s 2-1 win over Palace at Wembley was believed to have been his last game in charge of United.
Van Gaal himself was defiant after Saturday’s Cup final.
“I show you the cup and I don’t discuss it with my friends of the media, who already sacked me for six months,” the 64-year-old said.
Despite winning the club’s first trophy since the great Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, Van Gaal’s United didn’t challenge for the Premier League title and failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Fans were also unhappy with the brand of football their team played under Van Gaal.
United scored just 49 league goals this season, their lowest return for 26 years and many supporters felt Van Gaal’s approach ran counter to the club’s traditional attacking style.
Van Gaal has also spent heavily since replacing Moyes in 2014, splashing out more than £250 million on players.
Mourinho, once Van Gaal’s assistant at Barcelona, saw his second spell as Chelsea manager end with the sack in December, after last season’s champions made a miserable start to the their Premier League title defence.
United captain Wayne Rooney accepted this term’s performance had not been good enough by the standards expected at Old Trafford.
“He has been under pressure,” Rooney said of Van Gaal. “I think we all have.
“That’s part of playing for Manchester United and managing Manchester United – it is a massive club.
“You have to set standards and we fell below them this season.”
Meanwhile, former United midfielder Ray Wilkins said Mourinho was the man who could revitalise the club.
“When he goes to a club, normally he wins a big trophy within the first couple of years,” Wilkins told talkSPORT radio.
It was a view supported by former England striker turned BBC presenter Gary Lineker, who said: “One thing is for sure, Mourinho is a brilliant coach and a winner.
“As close as you could ever get in football to guaranteeing success.”
Mourinho – out of work since he was relieved of his duties at Stamford Bridge – appeared to take a step closer to a move to Old Trafford as removal vans were spotted outside his London home on Monday afternoon.
The 53-year-old Portuguese coach however told reporters, cameramen and photographers waiting outside his house: “Go home, go home, go home because I don’t leave the house today. It’s better to go home.”