Jose Mourinho contract clause means top four failure will cost manager millions if Man Utd sack him

The 55-year-old is on the brink with the club eighth in the Premier League, 18 points behind leaders Manchester City.

SunSport understand United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is planning a move for Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino in the summer and is prepared to spend £40m to bring the Argentine to Old Trafford.

Among the stumbling blocks in the deal is the major pay-off United face giving Mourinho if they dismiss him before the end of his contract in 2020.

Should United sack him at the end of the 2018-19 season Mourinho would be entitled to one year's pay – which equates to £12m – due to a clause inserted in the deal.

But SunSport have learned that fee will be dramatically reduced if the club are not in the Champions League due to a separate stipulation.

United are currently eight points behind the automatic Champions League places and Mourinho has scaled back expectations by setting a modest target of finishing in the top six.

If they failed to finish in the Premier League's top four the only route back into Europe's elite club competition would be by winning it.

Though progress to the round-of-16 was secured courtesy of the drab win over Young Boys, sides such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich are among the potential opponents when the knock-out stage begins.

Having previously set a target of challenging for the league and finishing in the top four, Mourinho is now focused merely on the top six.

Everton and Bournemouth are both ahead of United in the table – the trio are level on 23 points from 15 games – but the ex-Chelsea boss is confident of leap-frogging the pair.

He said ahead of the 2-2 draw with Arsenal: "In spite of the investment Everton made, (which) was phenomenal, and obviously there was a great improvement in that team from last season.

"I don’t think Everton is going to be in front of Manchester United by the end of the season.

"I think clearly everybody knows that there are six teams that should, all of them, stay in the first six positions.

"I think at the end of the season, once more, the top six will be done by the six teams that we all know that have that responsibility to finish in the top six."

Speculation that United could be ready to part ways with Mourinho next summer have intensified amid reports Pochettino is being lined up as a replacement.

The Spurs boss only signed a new contract in May and has twice turned down offers from Real Madrid after the departures of Zinedine Zidane and Julen Lopetegui.

And with resources expected to be limited as Tottenham prepare to move into their new £1billion stadium, a switch to Manchester might become increasingly appealing.

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