JOSE MOURINHO has played down speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United, insisting that Alex Ferguson could still be in charge at Old Trafford in a decade's time.
The 'Special One' has been linked with a return to Chelsea, currently under the interim stewardship of Rafael Benitez, and Manchester United when Ferguson finally retires.
Ferguson is a fan of Mourinho and asked if he could replace him in the Old Trafford hot-seat, the Scot said: "He can manage anywhere, absolutely. I'm not going to put any forecasts on what is going to happen at this club.
"I won't last forever, but José can manage anywhere, there is no question about that."
On Ferguson's praise, Mourinho said: "Friends are like that. They speak well of each other.
"His replacement is a long time away. It'll be 10 or 12 years. He keeps getting better. Why would he retire?"
Mourinho refused to elaborate on his Real Madrid future other than to say his relationship with president Florentino Perez had not deteriorated.
A report in Marca, a Spanish newspaper with traditionally strong links to the club, this morning claimed Mourinho and Perez had agreed the Portuguese would leave the Bernabeu at the end of the season.
But speaking ahead of tonight's Champions League game with Ajax, Mourinho said of the speculation: "Neither I nor the president are going to say a word. My future is tomorrow, which is my 101st match in the Champions League."
Rumours of discord between him and Perez are not new but Mourinho was adamant their relationship had not changed for the worse, adding: "Ask him. I don't have to tell you what I talk to the president about.
"My relationship with him is good and I've already said that. I'm not going to feed this situation."
Mourinho has come under fire from supporters this season following third-placed Madrid's slow start to the domestic season which has enabled arch-rivals Barcelona to establish an 11-point advantage over the defending Spanish champions.
They are also five points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid despite Saturday night's 2-0 defeat of their near-neighbours.
Mourinho was jeered by sections of the crowd in last Tuesday's Copa del Rey defeat of Alcoyano, prompting the former Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan boss to offer supporters the chance to vent their frustration by arranging to come to the side of the pitch 40 minutes before the Atletico game.
The reaction was mixed but with less than 5,000 fans inside the Bernabeu at the time, it offered little indication as to how the majority were feeling.
On the gesture, he said: "I went out there because whistling was expected.
"If there's animosity, the best thing is that it comes out before the match and against me personally so later on they can support the team and there won't be an opinion, but support."
Mourinho was, as ever, convincing, but his performance will do little to quell the speculation his time in Madrid is coming to an end.
The Marca report claimed: "Jose Mourinho will not coach Real Madrid next season."
Under a picture of a broken heart, the report added: "Both Mou and Florentino Perez believe the Portuguese's cycle on the bench at the Bernabeu is exhausted and that the current situation cannot continue beyond June 30."
Marca report Perez has become concerned by a number of incidents this season which have not cast the club in a good light.
Firstly, there was an incident with Sergio Ramos which saw the Spain defender put on Mesut Ozil's shirt underneath his own after the German was substituted at half-time of a game against Deportivo La Coruna.
Ramos later claimed he was merely showing support for his team-mate but the move was perceived as an attempt to undermine Mourinho's authority.
Ramos was later dropped.
There was also the public spat with Alberto Toril, boss of the reserve side Real Madrid Castilla, who play in the Segunda Division.
Mourinho accused Toril of focusing too much on results rather than trying to produce young players for the first team.
And it would seem the publicity stunt prior to the Atletico game may have been the final straw.
The speculation is sure to alert a number of clubs around Europe and, in particular, England where Mourinho is still highly regarded following his spell at Stamford Bridge where he won two Premier League crowns and one FA Cup.