By Phil McNulty: Mourinho's time at Man United may be over

Author: BBC
Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho's agent made a rare public statement recently to insist Manchester United are "very happy" with their manager. If that is the case, the only conclusion to reach is they are easily pleased at Old Trafford these days.

United's negative, lame performance in their 3-1 defeat at Liverpool carried all the ominous hallmarks of a broken team and the unmistakeable sense of Mourinho's managerial reign reaching an inevitable conclusion.

Mourinho's job may not be in imminent danger but it takes a huge leap of imagination, or a transformation that currently looks impossible, to see the decorated Portuguese manager at the club beyond this season.

United have fallen 19 points behind Liverpool before Christmas, and Mourinho's confidence that they will bridge an 11-point gap to Chelsea in fourth is a very optimistic, arguably unrealistic, view based on this grim evidence.

If, as agent Jorge Mendes claims, United's hierarchy are "very happy" with Mourinho's work, then times, targets and ambitions have changed beyond all recognition at the 'Theatre of Dreams'.

"Mourinho's morose demeanour is the sharpest contrast to Klopp's driven, animated style and the German currently possesses the managerial Midas Touch"

In fairness, United's loss should be placed in context. They were facing a rampant Liverpool team who are unbeaten at the top of the Premier League, and they were within 17 minutes of joining Manchester City as the only team to take points away from Anfield this season.

Mourinho will also point to the fact United's board were unable to deliver the central defender he wanted in the summer, but there are clearly deep-rooted problems within his squad. For all the failings in the transfer market, he is not getting the best from the players he does have.

Mourinho and United are judged when placed alongside Liverpool and in games like this. On this occasion, the whole mood, performance and attitude of the two teams and managers were light years apart.

And this drives at the heart of Mourinho and United's desperate malaise.

Mourinho's morose demeanour is the sharpest contrast to Klopp's driven, animated style and it is the German who currently possesses the managerial Midas touch.

United were in bunker mode from the moment their teamsheet landed, a ploy that was failing miserably until Alisson presented Jesse Lingard with an unlikely equaliser.

Their current ambition is now reduced to tilting at the top four and a cup run, but their stock has fallen so far they are now a side other clubs will want to be paired with in Monday's draw for the last 16 of the Champions League.

The succession of sub-plots swirling around Mourinho only add to the growing conviction he is now simply marking time until the end of his reign.