Jose to PSG, Poch to United?

AS we stagger through the tedium of another international break, we football fans have once again to be grateful to the gossip columnists – fact or fiction, they never let us down.

What began as a rainy day story now assumes the plotline of a genuine football House of Cards. Forget Kevin Spacey – imagine a slightly younger Robert De Niro playing the Special One with brooding intent.

Like the political drama, this tale is about ego, ambition and greed. And his nemesis, Pep Guardiola, looms ever larger as the man the Portuguese will stop at nothing to beat.

Just consider the following. Mourinho is not even a third of the way through his second season yet has already backtracked from staying at Manchester United "for life" (2016) to "staying for 15 years" (July, 2017) to "not ending my career here (October 2017)".

And the second season is supposed to be when he has his own players, having instilled in them his proven methods, and just waits for the title to be delivered – as it was at Chelsea (twice), Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

But if he expected history to be repeated at Old Trafford, he reckoned without Pep. Or, in his eyes, the combination of Pep and the wealth of Abu Dhabi.

Last season, as Guardiola underestimated the rigours of the Premier League programme, Mourinho won by two lesser trophies to nil. But if that was a rehearsal, it was the rookie who learned more from it – and did a better job of strengthening City than Mourinho did United.

Of the latter's three big summer signings, only Nemanja Matic has been an unqualified success, the bonus of him freeing Paul Pogba showing Mourinho's tactical astuteness. But, overall, the seven players he's brought in have not made the impact expected for the money spent.

Pep spent even more and tackled the glaring weakness of his defence. But it is how he's got the whole City team to click that makes him odds on to lift the Premier League title.

With a passing (pun intended) resemblance to Barcelona, they are the neutral's favourite: quicksilver little guys who are a joy to watch compared to the bus-parking bully boys of Mourinho's United. And all the Old Trafford boss can do is sulk and stamp his feet.

Another reason for doubting the permanence of the Portuguese's stay in Manchester is that he's still living "out of a suitcase". As the "suitcase" happens to be the £816 (RM4,500) a night Lowry hotel, please hold the CARE packages. But last season, it didn't stop him from saying: "My life is a disaster".

For a bon viveur and family man to be living alone on take-aways, it probably was. Indeed, there are experienced Mourinho-watchers who feel his current grumpiness is as much down to the lack of domestic bliss as the way the team are playing.

Either way, no one is thinking it's a coincidence that he's saying "PSG are special" and "I might end my career there". At first, we thought he was just wanting more money – for himself and new signings – but now even the board are taking it seriously.

This week, head honcho Ed Woodward will tell investors in New York that the manager wants to spend £150m in January. January! Not a time top clubs spend big so if they do, it will smack of desperation.

The first big head-to-head with Pep is still nearly a month away (Dec 10) and could change the mood. But deep down you suspect that Mourinho knows he can't beat Pep when the Catalan is backed even more generously than he is.

At Madrid, it became an obsession to best the then Barca boss. He finally did in La Liga but when Pep was at the end of his tether. And only by causing enough disharmony to nearly trigger another Spanish civil war.

But he was denied a chance to become the first manager to win the Champions league in three different countries when Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund thrashed Real in the semifinal. Pep had taken his sabbatical by then.

So, just as Mourinho feels he can't beat the Pep-Sheikh Mansour double act, he spots an opportunity to level what he considers an unfairly tilted playing field. What Abu Dhabi is doing for Pep and City, Qatar can do for him and PSG. And already there are reports of trouble in Paris.

Manager Unai Emery is on notice, Neymar is said to be unhappy and even considering going back to Barcelona or a switch to Madrid. It is a dressing room in tumult and begging for a strong man to sort it out.

After the constraints of the heavily-indebted Glazers and fans lukewarm to his style of play, he may well feel he has a better chance of winning the Champions League with the money-no-object Qatari owners than in rainy, lonely Manchester. And in Neymar, he would have the superstar he needs.

And right now United fans may not be that devastated to see him go. Unlike when Alex Ferguson and then David Moyes left, there is a ready-made replacement. Fergie has already given the seal of approval and with his penchant for youth and attacking football, Mauricio Pochettino would be a more natural fit than Mourinho.

The only quibble is that the Argentine has not won anything yet while PSG are also sniffing as are Real Madrid. Yet, if you are a Spurs fan, it could be time to be worried.

Unless chairman Daniel Levy can give assurances that he will build on the current team and not break it up to pay for the stadium, Pochettino may see it as time to leave. He will know opportunities like this don't come around too often and at 45 is probably ready.

Nothing concrete is likely to happen until the summer but we may discern the preliminaries for a managerial merry-go-round. Indeed, the more you look at it, the more plausible this scenario seems.

And however Mourinho dresses it up, it would look like he was a quitter. He didn't take the United job to win the League Cup and Europa League, did he?

Bob's latest book "Living the Dream" is available at Popular, MPH and Kinokuniya book stores.