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Jose Mourinho laughs first - and Manchester United might well laugh longest amid uncertainty of rival Big Four bosses


Apart from the Queen’s place and the Prime Minister’s abode, Jose Mourinho’s living quarters must be the most commonly known in the country.

Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and the Lowry Hotel in Salford, three of the country’s landmark addresses.

So it was not difficult for a pair of Italian TV pranksters, as
they would probably like to be known, to track Mourinho down and hoodwink him into signing a Manchester United jersey that had Antonio Conte’s name on the back of it.

Side-splitting, I know.

Yet remarkably, at least one man did find it amusing. The man who has been as miserable as January all season, Jose Mourinho.

It looked like he was smiling all the way to his suite.

Jose Mourinho left red-faced after signing Manchester United shirt...with rival Antonio Conte's name on the back
No wonder. It has been a cracking week for Mourinho, news leaking out of Old Trafford that it is only a question of when they announce his new, extended contract.

But the significance of the extension is not just personal, this is Manchester United drawing the battle lines.

Of the Big Six clubs, four have managers who, as it stands, will be out of contract at the end of next season.

There have been doubts about the longevity of all four. Surely Arsene Wenger has to pack it in soon, Antonio Conte and Chelsea looks like a divorce waiting to happen every week while Pep Guardiola’s intensity suggests another sabbatical would not be a surprise.

Mourinho completes the quartet and is heading into that third season when meltdown is almost guaranteed.

It still might be. After all, a new deal only means a fatter pay-off for the severance king.

Yet this is United and Mourinho making a show of stability, a gesture that says while the battle might be lost this season, they are ready for the war.

With Manchester City and whoever else.

Not all of Mourinho’s verbal missives are pre-mediated but when, on Boxing Day, he labelled the £300million he has spent on players as ‘not enough’, you can bet he wanted the boardroom to be listening.

And what are they about to do? Make a signing that will work out at costing £3.37million a month for the next four and a half years.

The intensity at which Pep Guardiola operates doesn't spell longevity at Man City (Image: Action Images via Reuters)
That’s a £182million investment in a footballer likely to have minimal re-sale value at the end of his contract.

Alexis Sanchez will be solely a Jose signing, a player representing value only in the sense he is guaranteed to help Mourinho try and win the title not just next season but for a few seasons ahead.

If Mourinho’s imminent new contract shows United’s faith in him, the Sanchez deal will apply the rubber stamp.

The Old Trafford board will be aware of reservations amongst the fanbase, particularly about Mourinho’s style of football, but they will point to a Premier League goals tally that is only topped by Manchester City and Liverpool.

By sanctioning the move for Sanchez, they are giving Mourinho yet another attacking option.

And by giving Mourinho a new deal, they are inviting him to do what he has failed to do anywhere else. Stay for an era, leave a legacy more memorable than tantrums and trophies and even in the age of City, restore United’s long-term domination.

Pretty much everywhere he has been, Mourinho has signed contract extensions and not come close to seeing them out.

But even from his room in the Lowry, it seems like he might just fancy it this time around.

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