Man United stick to Louis van Gaal ultimatum as Mourinho waits - sources

Louis van Gaal is still clinging onto his job as Manchester United manager because club officials want to stand by their word and give him the chance to meet the effective ultimatum he was set, sources have told ESPN FC.

Sources said Van Gaal was told before Saturday's 2-1 home defeat against Norwich City that he had to get at least two wins from the next three games, with United due to play Stoke City away on the Dec. 26 and Chelsea at home on Dec. 28, and he admitted he feared the sack after the weekend's loss.

Sources said some United officials hoped the 64-year-old would resign after that loss and felt they should sack him if he did not.

Van Gaal temporarily remains in the job, however, because of the majority of the hierarchy feel it would be against United club tradition not to stick to their word and give him the chance to win the next two games.

ESPN FC was told that United also feel it is important to do that because of the good relationship with Van Gaal, and because some are mindful of the likelihood that this is his last job in football and do not want it to end in unnecessarily sour or unfair fashion.

Van Gaal could yet stay for longer, then, if he wins those two games.

If he does go, Jose Mourinho looks to have the strongest case to take over following his departure from Chelsea, but United face a dilemma over the Portuguese.

Sources said the club are of the understanding that Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola's widely anticipated summer move to Manchester City is not yet signed and sealed, and United do not want to give up on the Catalan until they have exhausted every possible opportunity.

Appointing Mourinho would end United's pursuit of Guardiola but there is concern that if they wait too long they run the risk of losing out on the Portuguese, who is currently being touted for a return to Real Madrid.

Should they miss out on both Mourinho and Guardiola, there would be few remaining candidates of their standing available.

ESPN FC was told following Mourinho's Chelsea exit that he is fully ready and willing to take the United job above all others, but sources say his representatives have made efforts to be respectful over the matter due to the manager's relationship with Van Gaal, whom he worked alongside at Barcelona.

Sources suggested that that may partially explain the ambiguous comments of agent Jorge Mendes on Tuesday, as he clarified that Mourinho has not received an official approach from United "yet."

Some of the United board, meanwhile, still have considerable doubts over whether the 52-year-old is the right man. Although club officials were initially very tempted by the prospect of appointing Mourinho, sources say that arguments against him have gained some influence in recent days.

There remains debate over whether his profile -- as well as the history of controversy, the style of football, and the lack of youth promotion -- fits with United ideals. Some at the club are conscious of what appointing Mourinho would represent, since it would effectively signal they are sacrificing certain principles for the prospect of short-term success.

There are others, though, who believe he is essential at such an uncertain time.

If the Dutch coach is sacked and United do not appoint Mourinho, sources said assistant manager Ryan Giggs is likely to get the role until at least the end of the season.