Man Utd EXCLUSIVE: Jose Mourinho nearly returned to Real Madrid before Old Trafford move

Manchester United moved swiftly to appoint Mourinho as manager two years ago, with the 55-year-old swaggering into town to replace Louis van Gaal.

The Dutchman won the FA Cup for the club – the first piece of silverware of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era – but was axed after the Red Devils failed to finish in the top four of the Premier League.

Yet Balague has revealed that Manchester United nearly missed out on Mourinho to Real Madrid.

Speaking exclusively to Express Sport, the 50-year-old revealed that Real were eyeing him to replace Rafa Benitez in January 2016.

Ultimately, the job went to Zinedine Zidane.

But Balague, brand ambassador for Football Index, the revolutionary platform which gives users the ability to buy, sell and build a portfolio of players, said: “A return to Real Madrid under Florentino Perez was possible.

“And it almost happened at least once.

“But I do not see it happening now.

“That was around the time of the Rafa Benitez sacking.

“But now I do not think there is a possibility.”

Mourinho, despite falling out with many high-profile stars at Real Madrid, did well at the Bernabeu.

The 55-year-old guided the club to the Copa del Rey title in 2011.

And he then dethroned Barcelona as La Liga champions the following year.

The United boss has always enjoyed a close relationship with Los Blancos president, Florentino Perez.

And Perez believes Mourinho took the club up a level during his time in charge.

He said in 2015: “Mourinho, like any other coach, has his good and bad things.

“He started well and raised the level.

“He gave us that push that we needed to progress past the last 16 stages in competitions.

“With Mourinho we reached three semifinals besides winning a league title – a league that we won with 100 points.”