Ruthless Chelsea will make wasteful United pay
Kill off games or kiss hopes goodbye
As it has so often proved, Jose Mourinho's latest prophecy may soon come to fruition.
Missing out on the Champions League for a further four years, he believes, would not harm Manchester United's standing in world football.
That theory is set to be tested.
Continental destiny still remains in their hands, but only just. It should have been far more definitive than events in Belgium yesterday morning (Singapore time) suggested.
Anderlecht punished United from a solitary shot on target as the Belgian side forced a 1-1 draw in their Europa League quarter-final, first-leg tie.
By contrast, the Red Devils had six more attempts yet still delivered a familiar outcome at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
This can no longer be considered mere misfortune. It is a pattern that has become as predictable as it is recurring, with a promising opening spell yielding a minimal return before offering their opponents a lifeline back into the game.
Mourinho's former Chelsea lieutenants will be significantly less restricted in front of goal than Anderlecht when they step out at Old Trafford tomorrow, and undoubtedly more merciless.
The defenders did the serious work, but the people who had to kill the game didn’t.Jose Mourinho blaming his players for not taking their chances against Anderlecht
Their erstwhile manager's worst-case scenario is threatening to play out before his very eyes.
A Year Zero honeymoon period has devolved into a worrying resemblance of his previous end-of-days scenario, even if the prospect of another sacking remains far beyond the horizon.
Few anticipated that it would manifest itself during his first, rather than third, season at the United helm, but a lavishly assembled squad are mirroring the Special One's tactical stagnation.
Paul Pogba continues to place the past summer's spending spree under continued scrutiny. His wastefulness just minutes before Leander Dendoncker pulled Anderlecht level proved that money can't get you everything.
Mourinho's former teams often had no problems scoring, but that is not the case with his Red Devils.
Parallels with Louis van Gaal have become more striking than the pair's eerily similar win records. Both threw money at their problems rather than attempting to address them.
The Portuguese had the heroics of David de Gea to thank for sparing his blushes the last time Chelsea travelled to Old Trafford.
The EPL champions-elect will return far more energised than they were when the bruising end to Mourinho's tenure was still fresh in their minds.
Antonio Conte's side are set to win the title at a canter not too dissimilar to the 15-point lead which Barcelona enjoyed over Real Madrid in La Liga at the end of Mourinho's final season at the Bernabeu.
Just as it did in Spain, Mourinho's first love in England is coming back to haunt him.
A United victory tomorrow might disrupt Chelsea's momentum, but it will unlikely derail their title procession in the same way that Mourinho's last act of sabotage did, against Liverpool in 2014.
Bettering his opposite number on a third occasion this season will be inconsequential for Conte. The man he replaced in west London will invariably derive a far greater symbolism.
Mourinho prides himself on self-superiority but, for all his bluster, United's failure to reach the EPL's top four would signify merely an expensive continuation of the hotchpotch he inherited.
His forward line has to show a level of ruthlessness similar to the one which saw United humiliated 4-0 by Chelsea barely six months ago.
Without it, they can kiss goodbye to hopes of a top-four finish, and count on entering the Champions League back door via an Europa League triumph.