THEY’RE not exactly heading for the divorce courts yet — but it’s safe to say the honeymoon is over for Jose Mourinho.
Let’s not beat about the bush here. The next month could well be the defining period of his time at Manchester United.
Two Champions League games against Sevilla — and that’s no tap-in, believe me — bookending two huge domestic battles with Chelsea and Liverpool.
Tough enough at the best of times. But with everything you sense is bubbling just below the surface at Old Trafford, they become absolutely massive.
I think we are about to discover a lot about United, the players and the manager.
Jose can defend his relationship with Paul Pogba as much as he likes but it’s pretty obvious everything is far from rosy.
I’m not suggesting it’s daggers drawn between the two, or that Pogba wants out. That’s too far.
But I am hearing they aren’t as close as a few months ago, and that’s something United can’t afford. This is the stage of the season when everyone must be pulling in the same direction.
That got United through sticky patches in the past under Sir Alex Ferguson.
It’s something I saw first hand when I was in an Arsenal team fighting for trophies.
A great spirit, a real togetherness when people are carrying knocks, others are stepping up and you’re fighting on various fronts.
Manchester City seem to have it in abundance. You can see on the faces of them all when they turn up for games — it’s all about the business in hand.
You certainly don’t want tales of the star player not getting on with the manager, it has to be “us against the world”.
Pogba, 24, is a fantastic talent but has to be happy, he has to feel beautiful — and that is the art of man-management.
Sir Alex was brilliant at it, particularly at this stage of the season.
When United were mopping up trophies, they invariably kicked on in the second half of the season. With others tiring, they relentlessly ploughed on.
If they were in front at this stage, it was all over.
If they were just a couple of points behind, you knew they’d pounce when others wobbled.
Even if they were eight or ten points back, you felt it was a matter of time before you got their breath on your shoulder.
Those days seem from a different galaxy now. And I don’t just mean in terms of City playing football from another planet, although it hasn’t helped.
United are second but the fight for them is staying there rather than catching their neighbours.
More importantly, though, the stuff United are playing is nowhere near what the fans identify with and demand.
The love between the stands and the man in the dugout just doesn’t seem to be there.
I’m not saying Jose doesn’t have the supporters’ backing but you don’t get the impression it’s a deep-rooted affection.
I don’t think he made the wisest move having a dig about the atmosphere recently — not the first time he’s had a pop.
It all comes back to that relationship between everyone at the club. You certainly don’t want any fractures now.
The situation isn’t at crisis point yet but Jose has to ensure any cracks don’t become chasms.
If they turn into full-blown rifts, it can only end one way — in tears.
NO sooner had Dele Alli gone down in the Rochdale box on Sunday and the knives were out in force once again.
Dele has been in the news more than once for going to ground too easily.
We know he’s been guilty of it on occasions.
But to suggest he dived to win that late FA Cup penalty is just wrong.
It was a foul, a tired challenge from a League One defender against fresh legs, just off the bench.
Dele is a really magnificent talent and he will be crucial to England’s hopes at the World Cup this summer.
So get off his case, be thankful he’s playing for the Three Lions and consider this one fact if you STILL think he was in the wrong on Sunday . . .
Even Rochdale manager Keith Hill said it was a nailed-on penalty — and that should be enough for everyone.