Jose Mourinho will be named Manchester United manager in the next 48 hours and is determined to make Zlatan Ibrahimovic his first signing at Old Trafford.
Ibrahimovic is a free agent after leaving Paris Saint-Germain but would still demand an £8million signing-on fee, spread over a two-year contract, and wages of more than £200,000 a week.
The 34-year-old Sweden star is the kind of iconic figure wanted by United chief Ed Woodward to launch the Mourinho era, and is believed to be keen on working with his old Inter Milan coach again.
Mourinho’s appointment moved a step closer when his agent Jorge Mendes met Woodward in London on Tuesday. They agreed terms on a three-year contract worth £45m and discussed possible transfer targets.
Those include Everton defender John Stones, who Mourinho tried to sign for Chelsea last summer. Mourinho will face fierce competition from Manchester City and their new manager Pep Guardiola in what could be the first of many battles between the fierce rivals.
Mourinho’s contract was the main topic of conversation when Mendes met Woodward for lunch at a London restaurant on Tuesday, but it was by no means the only subject on the menu.
Mendes will have an even more influential role at Old Trafford once Mourinho takes over in the summer.
And incoming transfers were also discussed as United prepare to hand the Portuguese coach a £200m transfer fund to turn them into title challengers again.
Ibrahimovic and Stones are two names at the top of United’s list of targets.
However, Manchester City may try to steal a march on their neighbors by making a bid for Stones as early as next week.
Barcelona are also interested in the England defender even though he struggled for form this season.
Mourinho is interested in signing midfielder Nemanja Matic from Chelsea, as well as Sporting Lisbon’s Joao Mario.
United also hope that Mendes’ influence at Real Madrid could help smooth any negotiations for the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane.
Mourinho’s appointment could be confirmed within the next 48 hours after Woodward and Mendes agreed terms on a three-year contract worth £45m.
Lawyers are finalizing the details before United confirm that the 53-year-old will succeed the sacked Louis van Gaal, although it is understood that he is unlikely to be unveiled until he starts work this summer.
As United prepared for life after Van Gaal, the Dutchman’s compatriot Daley Blind became the first player to speak publicly about his departure.
Blind, the son of Van Gaal’s close friend Danny Blind, claimed the 64-year-old former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was poorly treated as his Old Trafford reign unraveled.
‘A manager who has achieved so much already deserved more respect,’ said Blind.
‘Even though there was so much being written about him losing his job, he always looked to protect and shelter us.
‘We as a squad kept believing in the manager and showed that with our FA Cup win.
‘We did it together for the supporters, the manager and for ourselves. It was a good finish to the season.’
Meanwhile, fellow Dutchman Memphis Depay has vowed to make a success of his £25m move to United after his first season ended in disappointment when he was axed from the squad for Saturday’s FA Cup triumph.
Depay was said to have reacted angrily to Van Gaal’s decision but, asked if he had a love-hate relationship with the manager, he said: ‘I don’t know. And now he leaves. As things go in football, as in life, you learn and become stronger.
‘If the arrival of Mourinho becomes official, I’ll ask (ex-Inter Milan midfielder) Wesley Sneijder what kind of man he is.
‘This does not affect me. I am happy to be at Manchester United and the board is happy with me. I will succeed because I believe in myself and I work hard.’
Reports that Van Gaal would be replaced by Mourinho surfaced minutes after he lifted the FA Cup at Wembley following months of speculation that he would be sacked with one year left on his contract.
The move was confirmed on Monday and former United captain Steve Bruce believes the club could have handled the situation better.
‘Looking back on it, I’m sure they’ll be disappointed about how it’s been handled because that’s not great from the club, which always sets the highest standards,’ said Bruce.
‘Then again, football is a changing world and the one thing about managers now is we get used to getting the sack, unfortunately.
‘It has been the worst-kept secret for a long time now that Jose’s coming in there and it looks from the outside anyway that the chance was just too good to miss.
‘Let’s be fair, if there’s a fella like Jose Mourinho available, then Manchester United have to act.’
The future of Bruce’s former team-mate Ryan Giggs is in doubt after he flew to Dubai on holiday to consider his options.
Giggs served as assistant to Van Gaal and David Moyes but is understood to have been offered a lesser role bridging the gap between the first team and the youth academy.
‘He’s obviously got a decision to make,’ added Bruce. ‘It seems there’s some role for him — it is up to him whether he accepts that role.’