Pep Guardiola Jose Mourinho
Manchester City have upped the ante in appointing Guardiola, Manchester United may have to look to Mourinho if they want to see them. Getty

On transfer deadline day, the worst kept secret in football finally came out. Pep Guardiola's imminent arrival in Manchester was confirmed. As expected, he will land on the blue half of the city.

Manchester City were quick to affirm the imminent arrival of the manager regarded as the best in club management has been four years in the making. Looking at the changes made to their infrastructure in that time, it's easy to establish that has been the case. City's patience has paid off with rich rewards now a tantalising prospect on the horizon.

The careful planning and execution of a long-term goal is a stark contrast the situation across town, where there appears to be no plan whatsoever. Any slim hopes Manchester United fans had of their club snaring Guardiola was firmly stamped out, adding to the feel of despair currently hanging above Old Trafford.

While United have denied suggestions they ever had any interest in appointing Guardiola – as reported by the Independent - that defence comes off as nothing more than a feeble attempt to save face.

City's careful planning compared to United's ongoing malaise is another demonstration of how the 20-time Premier League champions are slipping behind their neighbours. While seeing Guardiola appointed at City shouldn't come as a surprise, its realisation widens the gap.

United are at risk of becoming the real noisy neighbours of Manchester unless they quickly rediscover some direction. With Champions League qualification slipping away and the football on offer showing no sign of improving, Louis van Gaal's position grows weaker by the day. His acknowledgement that he has lost the supporters following the 1-0 defeat to Southampton should have been enough for Ed Woodward and the United board to pull the trigger.

The Dutchman's tenure continues to live on borrowed time. Who is to pick up the pieces and stand toe-to-toe with Guardiola next season is the next question and at this point, it appears there are two options. Ryan Giggs, next in line to the throne according to van Gaal and Sir Alex Ferguson, undoubtedly understands the club better than most. But whether that equates to effective management at the highest level remains to be seen.

Jose Mourinho
Mourinho poses a risky, but potentially rewarding option for United. Getty

Given how City have upped the ante, United cannot afford to make another wrong appointment. While the romantics will insist Giggs can perhaps mirror Guardiola's rise from relative obscurity, there is very little basis to suggest it is a risk worth taking in the current climate. It's a long-term strategy from the club, an admirable one at that. But the dynasty model in football is an outdated concept. The possibility of another finish outside the top four also robs them of the chance to provide some breathing space for the Welshman should be given the role. The club cannot simply afford another season standing still.

Jose Mourinho's divisive personality is reportedly what has kept him from the job at Old Trafford so far. The Portuguese has left his last two clubs in a state of near-anarchy and his questionable antics on the sidelines and in front of journalists are the sort that will make Sir Bobby Charlton squeamish. Well-documented concerns over his style of football also pose a problem.

In a sense, appointing Mourinho is akin to the United of old doing a deal with the devil. A risk not worth taking. But such is the level of gloom the club find themselves in and the lack of realistic alternatives, it is increasingly looking like a risk the club cannot afford to pass up.

Those drawbacks are at odds with Mourinho's penchant for delivering a near-instant impact at a new club, having won the title in his second season in charge at each of his former employers. His La Liga triumph in the 2011-12 season is the only time Guardiola has been denied a league title during his active years in management.

There is an inherent risk involved in every decision United are faced with from now on. Where City have excelled, United have left themselves with little alternative to roll the dice and try to address their deep-rooted problems without slipping further away from the Premier League elite. Mourinho could provide that bridge.