United must act fast in transfer market or risk Mourinho's wrath
If United boss doesn't get the players he wants, he'll have no qualms about going to war with Woodward
Jose Mourinho always gives the impression that he was the kid in the playground with all the marbles.
He had to have the other children's marbles, too, or he'd complain to the teacher.
In this instance, the teacher is Manchester United executive chairman Ed Woodward.
He's currently flapping around the transfer market like a relief teacher in an unruly classroom.
He's not giving Mourinho what he wants. He's not buying the shopping list, which is a serious concern for both parties.
When Woodward doesn't sign the right players, United managers get fired. Just ask David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
When Mourinho doesn't get the right players, his relationship with his employer sours faster than yesterday's milk. Just ask Chelsea.
With more than a month to go before the start of the season, club and coach already stand at the crossroads with Mourinho singing a sad song once more.
But the irascible manager holds the moral high ground.
His reported displeasure over United's transfer inactivity is justified.
After last season unexpectedly culminated with two trophies and Champions League qualification, there was giddy transfer talk of Bernardo Silva, Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale. A fortnight ago, there was even speculation that Cristiano Ronaldo might return.
Now United are struggling to sign Nemanja Matic, a midfielder that Mourinho once brought on at Chelsea and then substituted the substitute.
The redoubtable Serb already has a couple of titles at Stamford Bridge and would sit comfortably behind Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.
After the Griezmann and Ronaldo rumours, however, it smacks of reduced ambition, like looking for songwriters of Lennon and McCartney's calibre only to sign Ringo Starr instead.
United boast European football, pots of cash and an omnipotent marketing presence across the world.
Old Trafford should act as a tractor beam for international talent, pulling in the brightest stars with little resistance.
But it's just not happening so far.
United's pre-season tour of the United States begins on Sunday and Woodward has secured only one signing - Swedish centre back Victor Lindelof.
Speaking after the Europa League final in May, Mourinho said he had handed his shopping list to Woodward, which seemed about as sensible as handing his car keys to Mr Bean.
Six weeks on and Matic and Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata are leading Woodward a merry dance.
Chelsea appear reluctant to conclude any transfer business until they can get rid of Diego Costa and Real are smugly demanding £80 million (S$143.3m) for a striker they are not desperate to sell.
But United are so desperate to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they may agree to Real's exorbitant demands.
It'll be an expensive crumb of comfort for a club that have too often trudged from one market to another with a gold-plated begging bowl.
United haven't replicated their nuanced handling of transfer windows since Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill stepped down. As a result, Mourinho heads to the US with a bloated squad in dire need of culling.
He favours a hardened core of 22 players, but finds himself lumbered with 27 names that featured for the team sheet last season. The long list includes Axel Tuanzebe, Demetri Mitchell, Scott McTominay, Matty Willock and Angel Gomes; along with Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, Guillermo Varela and Sam Johnstone all returning from loan deals.
Meanwhile, David de Gea and Real continue to make eyes at each other.
Matteo Darmian reportedly wants regular game time at either Juventus or Inter Milan and Wayne Rooney remains the eternal cloud of uncertainty that refuses to dissipate.
Mourinho has a squad to rebuild and he can't even get Rooney off the books, thanks in no small part to the dithering of his boardroom bumblers.
Traditionally, the manager conducts his transfer business early. He reportedly wanted at least three, preferably four, new signings to play in the pre-season tour.
He'll be lucky to have one.
Woodward was entrusted with Mourinho's shopping list so, naturally, he was in New Zealand last week, watching the British and Irish Lions play the All Blacks.
There seems to be a worrying lack of urgency.
At this point, United followers may be coming down with a dose of deja vu. They've been here before.
But their manager hasn't. He's clearly frustrated and stories are already being leaked to favoured media sources.
The PR battle has begun.
If Mourinho doesn't get the players he wants, he'll have no qualms about going to war with Woodward.
- Victor Lindelof (Benfica, undisclosed)
- Josh Harrop (Preston North End, undisclosed), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (released)
REPORTED KEY TARGETS
- Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City), Samir Handanovic (Inter Milan), Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Jack Butland (Stoke City)
- Defenders: Fabinho, Benjamin Mendy (both Monaco), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid)
- Midfielders: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Nemanja Matic (Chelsea), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Renato Sanches, Douglas Costa (both Bayern Munich), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco)
- Strikers: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Kylian Mbappe (Monaco), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)