Background backbiting and swirling rumours mean Manchester United are more like a soap opera than a football club right now.
Jose Mourinho has been the key protagonist in a tumultuous start to the season, making the outspoken manager a character that looks in real threat of being, in soap terms, ‘killed off’.
The Daily Mirror’s story on Friday evening that United would call time on his reign regardless of Saturday’s result against Newcastle sent ripples around the footballing world but did not come as a huge surprise.
While strongly dismissed by senior sources at the club, these noises will continue so long as this giant of the English game continues to stumble.
The 20-time champions are in the midst of their worst start to a league season in 29 years and hoping to avoid going five successive matches without a win.
The only other time that has happened since the turn of the millennium was in 2015, when Mourinho’s predecessor Louis van Gaal led stuttering United on eight matches without a victory.
Some fans turned on the manager in the last game of that run, with the the Portuguese the clear favourite to replace him. Mourinho scarves were even sold outside Old Trafford for his former club Chelsea’s visit that December day.
That game was just 11 days after Mourinho was axed by the west Londoners, where poor results were compounded by what then technical director Michael Emenalo called a “palpable discord with the players”.
It is fair to say there are a few striking similarities with this current situation at Old Trafford.
Mourinho’s frosty relationship with Paul Pogba and some other star names continues to exacerbate matters on the field, where prosaic, predictable football has got the results it deserved.
Already out of the Carabao Cup and closer to the relegation zone than the table toppers, the 55-year-old retains the backing of the club’s hierarchy for the time being.
But things cannot afford to go on as they are. The results are not benefitting this giant of the English game, nor are the shenanigans off the pitch.