Senior sources at Manchester United have dismissed as “nonsense” claims the club have approached Zinedine Zidane over the prospect of replacing Jose Mourinho as the pressure builds on the manager, with staff members now openly discussing when his reign may come to an end.
United have now made their worst start to a Premier League season after a miserable 3-1 defeat at West Ham that leaves them with 10 points from seven games, and they are already nine points adrift of Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the table.
Zidane is interested in the United job and is a free agent since leaving Real Madrid in May after delivering a third successive Champions League crown but United have rubbished reports that they have approached the Frenchman.
Mourinho has retained the backing of the United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward despite the poor start and Tuesday’s Carabao Cup loss to Derby County, but members of staff at the club are thought to have discussed whether he can ride out the current slump.
The United manager - who on Saturday dropped Alexis Sanchez from his squad - has endured a very public collapse in his relationship with record signing Paul Pogba and substituted the France midfielder shortly after the hour mark after an ineffective performance.
But he chose to question the officials rather than his own team after the defeat, claiming Felipe Anderson’s opener and Marko Arnautovic’s third - which came after Andriy Yarmolenko had made it two for the hosts and Marcus Rashford had briefly pulled a goal back - should both have been disallowed.
But former United defender Rio Ferdinand felt the performance was the type which could necessitate change.
“I believe the powers that be at this football club have a decision to make,” he told BT Sport. “It’s getting too much. All the little wars in the dressing room, the stories leaking out in the press.
“This could be the worst season in the club’s history if something doesn’t change - and fast. They’ve got to make a decision right now - bang.”
And Mourinho was honest enough to admit that his side were far too generous in their defending.
“We were not good enough to stop the counter-attack. We’re not very good in transition. We are not a team that is very good when we lose possession and the other team counter-attacks.”
He also confirmed his decision to leave out Sanchez was purely tactical.
“Look, for how many months people are asking for [Anthony] Martial,” he said. “And Alexis is not playing well enough so this week it was time for me to agree so I picked Martial and left Alexis out.”