Man Utd manager Jose Mourinho is desperate to deliver his first title at Old Trafford and is expected to spend heavily this summer.
If Jose Mourinho wields the axe this summer, it is because time is running out.
A host of Manchester United players face uncertain futures as Mourinho desperately tries to claw back ground on Pep Guardiola’s runaway champions.
And if any or all of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw are shown the door, it is because their manager simply cannot wait for them.
He cannot wait for them to show the kind of consistency or maturity required to transform United into genuine Premier League title contenders.
Two years into Mourinho’s Old Trafford reign, we are approaching injury time as far as his managerial record is concerned.
The Portuguese is not one for the long term.
That is not a criticism.
Who is, in the modern era?
Arsene Wenger is the last of his kind.
It is impossible to imagine another manager replicating his 22 years at a top European club.
Guardiola may extend his stay at Manchester City by another 12 months this summer.
If he does the unexpected and agrees to a two-year extension, it’ll be the longest job of his career – making it five years at the Etihad.
Mourinho has never done more than three.
His 12-month extension, signed in January, could see him do a total of five years and Old Trafford – but only if United trigger an option.
But what is the likelihood of that if by 2020 he still hasn’t delivered a title?
Mourinho knows that.
He is the man who brings near-guaranteed silverware.
That’s what executive vice chairman Ed Woodward was buying into when appointing him – even if some at Old Trafford had misgivings about his style and record at promoting youth.
So far he has lived up to his end of the bargain – and the FA Cup would make it three trophies in two seasons.
But United are desperate for a first league title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement – and City’s romp to the crown will have only intensified that desire.
Guardiola has spent close to half a billion pounds because he knew he had to speed up his revolution.
Mourinho has spent heavily too and can hardly hide behind a lack of funds.
Nor does he need to after two seasons of progression.
But just as Guardiola realised after his first trophlyess campaign that drastic action would need to be taken to realise his ambition at the Etihad, Mourinho will think likewise.
He may have spent around £300m at United, but he remains overly reliant on players signed by or nurtured by Ferguson.
He could conceivably play an entire back five of Ferguson players in the FA Cup final in David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young.
He also inherited Martial and Shaw.
Pogba was his own signing, but ongoing issues between the pair have become increasingly evident as the season has progressed.
The £89m midfielder, Martial and Shaw were supposed to be part of a bright new future for United. A trio expected to make their respective positions their own for years to come.
But it would be no major surprise if all were allowed to leave this summer as Mourinho attempts to build a team in his own image.
The fear for United is that all three go on to realise their potential elsewhere, causing maximum embarrassment.
Their respective talent is not in question.
What is in question is whether they can produce it regularly enough during Mourinho’s reign.
This is a man who was prepared to let Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Mo Salah leave Chelsea in favour of the immediate gains being offered by Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Willian as he worked towards delivering a third title in two spells at Stamford Bridge.
At the time, no one was complaining at Chelsea.
No one was telling the manager he needed to drop Player of the Year Hazard to give De Bruyne more minutes.
No one suggested Lukaku would provide more of a cutting edge than leading scorer Costa.
And no one predicted the player Salah would become.
What they did do was celebrate another season of triumph from Mourinho – a manager who knew he would be shown the door if he couldn’t deliver the title – just as he was seven months after Chelsea were crowned champions.
United may not be as trigger-happy as Roman Abramovich, but the fates of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal are a measure of Woodward’s ruthlessness.
He is giving Mourinho more time than either of his predecessors, but has had good reason to.
If United are effectively out of the title race by the turn of the year next season, patience may begin to run out.