Uneasy lies the head coach
Times have changed in the super-clubs with Mourinho's old methods facing new scrutiny
There is a line you know not to cross with Jose. You can have a normal conversation with him about what was on the television last night or what match you watched. But there is that line. And when you even think about crossing it, you get nervous."
John Terry's account of Chelsea's first season under Jose Mourinho in 2004-'05 is notable for the sense of novelty around the new man in English football, the man who replaced the patriarchal gaffer figure once and for all. There is the story about Mourinho abandoning Claudio Ranieri's punishing pre-season fitness regime for ball work at all times.
There is another about his meeting with his England contingent in Portugal at Euro 2004 when he told Frank Lampard he was the best midfielder in the world. He must have been in a generous mood that day because he also anointed Wayne Bridge the best left-back in Europe.
This was an era when collating a player's match-highlight clips on one handy DVD was considered cutting edge, although it was about a new consensus-style of management, a young coach whom players could connect to, with just enough threat to make it work. At one point, Eidur Gudjohnsen accepted his team-mates' dare to raise the subject of Mourinho's new contract with the manager, and they are fascinated to discover he takes no offence - although no details are forthcoming.
It was one of Mourinho's greatest tricks, his decompression of the old norms of the boss combined with his own elevation to the first tier of football celebrity. He was more famous, more successful, than many of the players and that was the currency that counted. Those who he considered non-disciples were not harangued into a conversion, rather they were isolated, and that was the worst fate of all. Because everyone wanted to be part of what he had created.
You could see the change ripple across football too. Alex Ferguson quietly dismantled his reputation for total ruthlessness by twice bringing Wayne Rooney back into the fold after he had publicly denounced the regime.
Since then we have seen Brendan Rodgers' holistic approach; Mauricio Pochettino's surrogate father role; Jurgen Klopp dispensing man-hugs; Arsene Wenger giving out fist-bumps. The game's changed.
For the better many might say, although 14 years on from his first big job in English football, and facing Chelsea again today, Mourinho would have to say the 21st century manager now treads a fine line. Even for him, the manager's job at a super-club these days is to be the man at the head of a loose confederation of superstars, holding together an uneasy alliance for as long as he can.
It was no different at Real Madrid or then in his second spell at Chelsea, and at United the Paul Pogba issue once again begs the question: where does the power lie? The feeling inside the club is that Mourinho believes Pogba's agent Mino Raiola exerts too much control over the player.
Raiola has a direct line to vice-chairman Ed Woodward which cuts out Mourinho. This is a problem for Mourinho, a man who would wish to be the only voice in his players' heads at all times. The flattering, the threatening, the cajoling, he would like to be his prerogative alone. "I don't think it's about the manager to trust the player," he said this week.
"It's up to the player to make the manager trust him." But it is a crowded field these days to be heard the loudest, much more so than the time when he could get by with telling Chelsea's 2004 generation he was going to make them the best in the world.
You can blame the clubs too, Manchester United having done as much as any other to treat their players like movie stars. When he arrived in the summer of 2016, they paraded Pogba like he was the European Cup. No other new signing has been the subject of a bespoke Stormzy video, although as things stand there is a very good chance that Stormzy could end the season with more medals than Pogba. If things get so bad that it comes to a straight choice between Mourinho and Pogba at some point for United then it will be hard to call.
The delineation between manager and players is closing quickly. Pep Guardiola wields more power than any manager in the English game, the more conventional kind that flows from the top of the club, but he also asserts himself by virtue of his status, and his reputation.
In Spain, it is hard to know what kind of individual would have greater authority at Real Madrid than Zinedine Zidane, but even he has managed to lose most of it in the space of eight months. At Paris Saint-Germain, they did not even invite Unai Emery to the press conference to mark Neymar's arrival last summer.
How Mourinho manages Pogba's future will go a long way to dictating how his own plays out at United.
The team are not playing particularly well, there are other clubs and other managers whose offering just seems more attractive, and none smell weakness in a manager quicker than his own players.
Even now Mourinho is running through the old playbook with Pogba, a mild public admonishment, an omission from the starting line-up in favour of a much lower-profile player, but sooner or later things will come to a head for player, manager and club.
It was so much simpler when Mourinho was reinventing the manager's job in 2004, giving his players the kind of freedom and praise that they had never had before. The new generation has grown up with a different kind of relationship with the man that manages their team, and it is difficult for even the best coaches to know where to go when that does not yield results.
- Manchester United v Chelsea, Sky Sports, 2.05
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.