Jose Mourinho underestimated Manchester United’s appetite for change.
When the time came to cut the cord on his toxic reign, £20million was considered a price worth paying.
“If they send me away, do you have any idea how much money they would have to give me?” Mourinho told Italian reporters in September.
Three months later he was sacked – and United’s latest financial results, which included record revenues of £208m and profits of £44m, serve as evidence of the club’s ability to absorb the cost of failure.
And if Daniel Levy believes a compensation package running into tens of millions of pounds will prove prohibitive to Ed Woodward’s pursuit of Mauricio Pochettino, he will be disappointed.
Tottenham’s manager provided a latest reminder of why he has long-been at the top of United’s managerial wish-list this week by steering Spurs to within 90 minutes of the Champions League quarter finals.
Just weeks after two cup exits in the space three days took the shine off his candidacy to become the permanent successor to Mourinho, Spurs’ re-emergence as title contenders and Wednesday’s 3-0 win against Borussia Dortmund have justified Woodward’s ongoing admiration.
United’s executive vice chairman this week underlined his intention to continue his extensive and thorough process to recruit a fourth manager in six years, despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s outstanding start as interim.
“We’re not going to give updates part way through,” he told investors on the New York Stock Exchange.
Privately, the feeling within Old Trafford is that Solskjaer’s rising credentials to get the job are a good problem to have.
But if the Norwegian is appointed, it will be due United’s resurgence on the pitch, rather than the fact he represents a much cheaper option than Pochettino – or indeed any of the other names under consideration, from Max Allegri to Zinedine Zidane.
Standard Sport understands United will not be put off by the prospect of paying Spurs a compensation fee, which it is believed will exceed the £34m value of the remaining four years of Pochettino’s contract.
As far as United’s accounts are concerned the package would be spread across the length of any proposed deal at Old Trafford, making it a considerably less daunting figure.
Such figures are unusual and even outlandish for managerial appointments – but considering Woodward’s desperation to get the right man, the cost of landing Pochettino is unlikely to be the determining factor if the Argentine can be convinced to make the switch.
Put into context, United were willing to pay £52m for Fred last summer and the Brazilian is still to make 10 Premier League starts.
Woodward knows he is facing a critical few months in his tenure as he conducts a dual search for a manager and director of football.
Pressure on him has eased thanks to Solskjaer’s transformative effect since succeeding Mourinho in December.
The 1999 Treble-winning hero has also provided him with a unlikely wildcard.
But defeat to Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday provided something of a reality check.
With games against Chelsea, Liverpool and the return to PSG coming up in quick succession, Solskjaer’s future could go a long way to being decided within the next few weeks.
There is growing support for the 45-year-old from all levels of the club, as well as among supporters.
Should he maintain United’s place in the top four, he would make a compelling argument to remain in position.
But Woodward has strategically bought himself time to make a decision – and United will continue to closely monitor Pochettino.
Two men now lead the race to be handed the keys to Old Trafford in the summer. And when the decision is made, it will be down to credentials, rather than cost.