Manchester United bosses have asked Jose Mourinho to wait 12 months for the Old Trafford hot seat as they want current manager Louis van Gaal to see out the final year of his contract, according to reports.
The Sun newspaper claims United chief executive Ed Woodward sounded out Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes to see if his client would be open to taking an extended break — or work in the Chinese Super League for a year — before arriving in Manchester next summer.
However, Mourinho is keen on returning to management this summer and reportedly believes he is closer than at any stage to being confirmed as the next United manager — perhaps as early as the end of May.
The 53-year-old is out of a job after he was sacked by Chelsea in December. His representatives held talks with United in February over the Portuguese potentially succeeding Van Gaal in the summer.
But the Old Trafford hierarchy is reported to be having second thoughts on dispensing with the services of Van Gaal, 12 months before his three-year contract expires in 2017.
United are still in the hunt for a top four place in the Premier League and are through to their first FA Cup final in nearly a decade under the Dutchman's guidance.
Mourinho is known to be excited by the prospect of restoring United to their former glory — the Red Devils have not won any major silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013, despite spending upwards of £300m ($434m) on transfers since that time.
United must win their remaining three fixtures — against Norwich City, West Ham United and Bournemouth — and hope Manchester City lose one of their last two matches to pip their local rivals to fourth spot in the league.
Earlier this week, Van Gaal, 64, complained that expectations were "too high" at Old Trafford. "We are in a period of transition. It is not so easy," the former Bayern Munich boss was quoted as saying by the BBC.
"We have to meet the expectations of the biggest club in the world. Expectations are too high."