WITH THE SAME sense of regularity as summer becoming autumn, Jose Mourinho’s relationships with his players at Manchester United are deteriorating like leaves turning yellow.
Mourinho’s method of man management is curious. One day taking on the role of jolly jester playing practical jokes on his squad to lighten the mood.
The next day darkness descends and a deliberate policy of agitating and division creeps in to supposedly keep his stars on their toes and remind them who is boss.
It can be effective, it can be productive. But when the team you are in charge of is not winning it is massively outdated and self-destructive.
Too much has gone on with Paul Pogba for there not to be an element of truth at least in the reports of a fractious and fragile marriage between a player not fulfilling his potential for his club and a manager struggling to plot his way back to the top of English football.
Had Manchester United won the Premier League or Champions League last season then nobody in the Old Trafford dressing room could argue.
But second place and losers in the FA Cup Final to his old Chelsea won’t shut up the dissenters in the dressing room which becomes a breeding ground for the ‘palpable discord’ which brought Mourinho down in his previous job at Chelsea.
Which makes next Monday’s visit of Tottenham Hotspur all the more fascinating.
Man Utd fans should envisage what it would be like to watch Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino stroll along the touchline and take a seat in the ‘home’ dugout instead of that earmarked for the ‘visitors’.
There could be no greater contrast between the two men than the way they conduct themselves in the workplace. And football is just like any office or factory when it comes to industrial relations.
Pochettino has been a coach in England since 2013 – with Tottenham since 2014 and he hasn’t won a bean.
In ‘normal’ circumstances that would have meant the sack. Yet Pochettino’s standing among the club board, the players and the supporters could not be higher.
Most importantly, he has managed to keep the vast majority of an ambitious, young squad happy to be trophyless by selling a dream.
With the exception of Kyle Walker, Pochettino has somehow nailed the loyalty of Harry Kane – a striker superior to any at Manchester United to a massive new contract.
Kane could walk into the team at Real Madrid and sit back counting his money and the silverware, yet he chooses to stay in North London.
He is a homeboy and a father of two but do not underestimate the power of Pochettino in all this, the charm of the Argentinian in convincing the World Cup’s golden boot winner to stay put.
Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, World Cup winner Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier. All happy enough to stand in line behind the manager and push on in a so far fruitless pursuit of honours.
Four years building a team and nothing to show for it. No way would Mourinho be able to command such unswerving devotion and positivity from the shop floor workers.
Manchester United have coveted Pochettino in the past. There is no doubt there will be slightly envious and calculating eyes bearing down on him when he leads unbeaten Tottenham out on Monday.
There is a feeling that Mourinho is in the end phase. The cyclical pattern of enthusiasm and energy is now giving way to bitterness and blame. It’s always been this way only this time there hasn’t been a starburst of trophies to show that the in-fighting was worth it.
Pochettino could be just the bloke who brings peace to the dressing room at Old Trafford and cups to the boardroom with a complete reverse of management style.
The next big test of loyalty for Spurs is not from the players but from the manager himself and whether he could resist the lure of England’s biggest club.