Jose Mourinho was special, once. But a previously captivating, successful figure is a shadow of his former self, his Manchester United side cast in his sullen, dour image. If now isn't the time to sack him, when should it be? Just because there's no eye-catching alternative, it doesn't mean the incumbent deserves a reprieve. Give the job to Michael Carrick, Zinedine Zidane, Fred The Red -- anybody.
This is the club's joint-worst Premier League start, mirroring the wretched 2013-14 season. Saturday's defeat to West Ham featured a team who sacked David Moyes, losing limply to a team who sacked David Moyes. And you thought his regime was bad.
You have to go back almost 30 years for it to be worse than this. Sir Alex Ferguson started 1989-90 with four defeats in seven games, the last of which a 5-1 drubbing against Manchester City -- what on earth will Pep Guardiola's City do to Mourinho's rabble in 2018? -- but held on to his job and went on to win the first of 38 trophies later that season. But that was a different era, before the importance of finishing in the top four became paramount. Mourinho might have been brought in to restore the glory days of Ferguson but they seem further away than ever.
Mourinho is picking needless fights and losing them. There was little point in choosing Scott McTominay as part of a three-man defence with Eric Bailly on the bench at West Ham. There was little point in making a fit Alexis Sanchez travel and then not name him in his matchday squad. There's little point in anything that he does right now, because on the evidence of Saturday afternoon's 3-1 defeat he's lost his players. He's run out of ideas and excuses: he complained about the lack of VAR in the Premier League after West Ham's opener from Felipe Anderson but could offer little in way of explanation as Marko Arnautovic waltzed past an open defence to make it 3-1.
Why would you want to fight for a manager who castigates you more often than not? Paul Pogba, the protagonist in the latest soap opera to engulf the club, was substituted for Fred during the defeat after another lifeless display. Mourinho hailed West Ham's intensity in the aftermath -- where was United's? West Ham were fired up -- United's performance should be enough to get their manager fired.
A pathetic defeat on Saturday capped a hellish week and should seal Mourinho's fate. It started with Pogba's veiled attack on his own manager after newly promoted Wolves outplayed United at Old Trafford, continued with the revelation Mourinho had removed vice-captaincy duties from the Frenchman, escalated with a tense exchange on the training ground between the pair after defeat to second-tier Derby in the League Cup and the London Stadium was the nadir.
Mourinho's acolytes refuse to countenance the idea the Portuguese is yesterday's man, yet he's offering nothing to suggest he can recapture his former glory. The damning thing is everywhere you look with new managers, their respective teams are responding. Chelsea are buying into Maurizio Sarri's methods, pressing high and buzzing about with Jorginho at the fulcrum. Arsenal are showing the odd glimpse under Unai Emery, as he seeks to impose a new playing style after 22 years of Arsene Wenger.
Jurgen Klopp is in his third full season at Liverpool, like Mourinho at United, but the difference in approach, philosophy and optimism is stark between the two. For goodness sake, even Derby County are showing promise under Frank Lampard. Leeds are thriving under Marcelo Bielsa. Mourinho? Three seasons in, hundreds of millions spent, and you still can't figure out what his game plan is meant to be. It's static football from an analogue manager in a digital age. You won't witness tears of agony when Mourinho leaves United, like Marco Materazzi at Inter Milan in 2010. Tears of joy, perhaps.
Mourinho has based his football career on locking games down from the start and exploiting weaknesses to ruthless effect. But United are crumbling week by week, tormented constantly by also-rans and never-weres. They had conceded three times in a Premier League game twice in two seasons under Mourinho. It's three times in seven games in 2018-19 and counting. What do you expect when a dud like Victor Lindelof, so out of his depth, is picked? Mourinho took his eye off the ball on that one, and it doesn't help when Lindelof does just that every week. His record in the transfer market, mixed at best, was summed up on Saturday; Sanchez kicking his heels after being dropped after a wretched run of form. The man signed in a swap deal with another flop, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, is drowning at United. Issa Diop, who ran all over Mourinho's men in east London, was praised by the United boss afterwards, as was the scout who found him. Whether a passive-aggressive dig at United's scouting or not, it was an interesting aside.
Chelsea sacked Mourinho in December 2015 with the defending champions sinking towards the relegation zone. The similarities are so pronounced: the manager created massive conflict with his own team back then, with the Eva Carneiro fracas. He hit out at the club's transfer policy, believing he wasn't backed enough, just like he has done constantly this season and throughout the summer in the United States. Three years ago to the day, Chelsea lost 2-1 at Porto, and Mourinho blamed his players' attitude and warned he'd play the kids if things didn't improve. His respective teams, full of superstars and emerging talents, looked like strangers. Mourinho's third season struggles are as predictable as the football he presides over. Tedious, mind-numbing monotony that only the most rose-tinted of the United brigade should be able to stomach by now.
Match-goers remain among the most loyal in the country, standing by their man even when Derby and West Ham fans sing "You're getting sacked in the morning." But how long can their patience last? How can they look at Liverpool entertain the Premier League and excite their fans while United bore their own into submission with a manager who radiates negativity at every turn? Pep Guardiola moved to Manchester at the same time as Mourinho and his City side broke all manner of records in their title winning campaign last term. It must make United fans sick.
But there's a cure to all this. If executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, a man who could sell ice to eskimos such is his commercial acumen, had an ounce of football knowledge, he'd act now before it's too late. The season is still salvageable, there's an antidote to this poison. A change in manager would kill the internal conflict between manager and star player Pogba, wipe the slate clean and give these under performing players one last chance to show their worth.
It's time for Mourinho to go.