Judgement Day for Jose Mourinho?
At 8pm tonight at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho will lead out his Manchester United side for their Champions League clash with Spanish outfit, Valencia.
It may be for the last time.
A tetchy press conference yesterday did little to allay fears of all-out war in the Manchester United dressing room.
Amid reports that the man who is the odds-on favourite to succeed Mourinho as manager, former Real Madrid boss, Zinedine Zidane had telephoned him to advise that United chiefs had not sounded him out on replacing the Portuguese, Mourinho refused to confirm or deny that a call took place.
Mourinho incredibly deflected the question to The Sun's Neil Custis who had written the article and asked the journalist posing the question to ask him instead. Custis confirmed that a call had taken place to which Mourinho responded by advising: "He put a bug on my telephone."
Hardly a denial.
When probed whether he had spoken with United Chief Executive, Ed Woodward about his future as manager, Mourinho merely stated: "That's a private matter."
Again, if this were untrue, why would Mourinho not flat out deny it? Mourinho's predecessor, Louis Van Gaal, in his final season in charge of United was hounded by press questions on whether he was to be dismissed and replaced by Mourinho and vehemently denied the claims as those conversations which evidently did take place never included him. A fact that continues to upset the Dutchman to this day.
Mourinho's irritation at these questions suggests some truth to the rumours. Add to the fact that he continued to anonymously denigrate members of his squad for their poor attitude, a methodology that is proving startlingly unsuccessful in turning his club's season around, confirm that the United camp is far from a happy one.
One statistic that sums up the mood around the club right now, is the sprint stats published regarding United's defeat at West Ham last weekend.
United finished 20 out of 20 for the number of sprints completed during the Premier League's weekend games. A staggering figure, made even worse when you consider United were chasing the game from the fifth minute, so you would expect them to be running extra yards to get back into the match.
What those figures mean, quite simply is that the players are not playing for Mourinho.
Whether it is fair or not for Mourinho to suffer for this fact by losing his job is difficult to answer. However, ultimately it is his job to unite and inspire his team and unfortunately, the legendary coach is falling far, far short of doing so.
United chiefs are not going to sack half of the playing squad or attempt to offload them in January or the summer to try to replace them at great expense in the hope that Mourinho won't alienate a new influx of starts.
It would be financial suicide to do so. Mourinho is the more expendable option for the United board if the atmosphere and results do not improve quickly.
The recovery could start versus Valencia tonight or that match could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for Mourinho's United tenure.