Anoth era crossroads beckons for José Mourinho. Only this time, when he falls down on his knees he may find the real devil is the one that resides within.

Defeat to Spurs against the manager who many feel might have been a more apt figure to replace Louis van Gaal in the hot-seat, Mauricio Pochettino, could propel the Old Trafford soap opera into spiralling, full-blown crisis.

Even victory, repeating the sometimes conveniently ignored tactical master-classes mounted by the Portuguese against Spurs last term, may only delay what seems an inevitable fissure between the manager and his overlords, never mind those that already might exist between himself and the players.

“These are difficult times,” says former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness.

“The spotlight is on them. The criticism after only two games is harsh, but it‘s Manchester United, arguably the biggest team in the world.

“That‘s not to say if they were to beat Tottenham, win well and play very attractive football, that the spotlight goes somewhere else.

“I see a bumpy ride for the foreseeable future. I don‘t think a couple of games will take the spotlight off them.

“The players have to find a spark, whatever they feel about any other individual at the club, if they‘re not happy with the manager. If you‘re a big player, get your own game sorted first.”

Souness is not prepared to call time on the manager‘s future just yet, cautioning that few outside know what is happening behind closed doors, albeit the evidence on match-day will be compelling.

“I wouldn‘t talk about him leaving Manchester United yet,” says the Virgin Media Ireland pundit.

“I‘ve been in a dug-out opposite him, but I don‘t really know him. He looks unhappy in his job.

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“The manager sets the tone at the football club. Every day he turns up for work it‘s all about the mood he‘s setting. Right now, the players are not enjoying that environment.

“They don‘t become bad players. He‘s obviously unhappy he didn‘t get to spend the money he wanted to, but I understand it from the owners‘ perspective.

“They signed two centre-backs and they have not turned out to be the players they were expecting.

“So I can understand why Ed Woodward said no to any more money for centre-backs.

“Now it looks like Mourinho is gone into a huff over that and it has spread into the dressing-room.

“And if you‘re one of the players in the dressing-room and the manager is trying to find someone in your position, I‘m not sure how that would go down.”

Mourinho appears morose and exasperated. Only some managers are successful and content; it compounds things that Mourinho was once a titular figure in that select cohort.

“It just drives you mad,” says the Scot.

“Does it affect your personality? Well, it did me and it should do to anyone who cares. You can‘t close your office at the end of every day and leave it behind you. You take it home with you.

“Ultimately that‘s why I got out… the feeling I got from winning a game didn‘t counter the feeling I got from losing a game – permanent unhappiness.

“For Mourinho, it will be doubly difficult because he is a winning manager, a very successful manager and he‘s used to getting his own way.

“All of a sudden he‘s not successful, he‘s being compared to other managers unfavourably and he isn‘t allowed to get the players in he wants to.

“I don‘t know if he can change, I don‘t know what he‘s like around the place.

“What I do know is that a manager sets the tone. I can only pass judgement on what I see.

“And what I saw last week was a group of players who look jaded already. They weren‘t full of sparkle, energy or spirit.”

Whatever about Mourinho‘s future, Souness knew that his time in the game was up when John Giles imparted some of his age-old wisdom in the back of a Dublin taxi on a grimy Wednesday.

“I thought I did okay, eight jobs, only sacked in three. But then Johnny said something to me: ‘It‘ll take you a year or 18 months, but one day you will ask yourself why did you take that last job?‘ That‘s what exactly happened in my case. He was spot on.

“Today, it‘s a different world. As talented as Mourinho is, look at what he has to deal with now.”

And does he miss it? “Do I f***!”

Irish Independent