Pep Guardiola is sitting at a table waiting to be served the Premier League title on a large plate held by maître d' Jose Mourinho. That image could still be rewritten but that's the way things look to be heading after two consecutive Premier League defeats, three in all competitions, and one inflicted by the former Barcelona chief himself...
Tales from the Top Flight by Chris Darwen Oh football, where to start with you this week. Of course, there is only one place we can really start and...
This has to be the worst Premier League title defence since, well I don't know, Chelsea last season, right? It looks like my predictions for last season might have been accurate, just a year too soon with Chelsea and City in the top two and West Ham being relegated with Leicester. I jest of course, Hull are still on track to win the league.
In part, Mourinho's reputation plays into how the situation looks from the outside. When fans were concerned about his youth policies months before he was even appointed manager, there was always going to be some extra scrutiny afforded to his decisions.
Mourinho's United already look much more like the United of old. That knowledge of how to win potentially tricky fixtures - absent for most of Van Gaal and David Moyes' respective tenures - has returned. The players play their part, but huge credit must go to the new boss for his attitude towards the team, training, and their tactical set-up in matches.
As we draw closer to yet another Premier League season, the big question on everyone's lips here is: are we in for another shock season? Are we going to see another Leicester City rise up and take the crown? Or will the fabled old guard step up this season and reassert their dominance upon the league...
Pogba will form part of a central midfield pair in a 4-2-3-1 formation. He will provide the legs and the energy alongside a sitter, possibly Morgan Schneiderlin, possibly Daley Blind, occasionally 35-year-old Michael Carrick.
If Mourinho can rectify what was Ferguson's greatest mistake at Manchester United, he can save the season before it starts. The pill of a potentially controversial and trophyless year is far easier to swallow when accompanied by the sugary return of a prodigal son. And not just any prodigal son, but one that could quite conceivably go on to become the best player in the world.
You can't help but think this new Chelsea will be far more 'together' than they were in the opening months of last season. Mourinho's Chelsea were fractured; he'll have learned from his mistakes in his new role, but there'll be no more "palpable discord". Conte drives a hard bargain, and yes he's a little crazy, but he's respected.
'No, not him, anyone but him.' Was this you when Jose Mourinho was finally confirmed as Manchester United manager in May? Because it was definitely me. The former Chelsea boss took over as a proven winner, sure, the man to restore the glory days of the Sir Alex Ferguson era. That certainly appealed to the growing army of modern 'fans' who care only for results and success.
The transfer market turned crazy a long, long time ago. Premier League clubs have nigh-on endless supplies of cash to splurge in the hunt for success, and inflation will only continue in the years to come. It's a case of supply and demand, and the latter is ever-increasing. To Manchester United, Paul Pogba is worth whatever they're willing to pay. If that's more than £100million, then so be it.
The group of players Mourinho has inherited from Louis van Gaal are 80% of the way to seriously challenging for major honours and a handful of carefully selected signings would get them over the line. That being said, there is still a little deadwood that Mourinho can afford to let go as he looks to put his own stamp on the squad.
Disgruntled fans sick of reading transfer rumours that never become reality like to think that journalists sit in front of a computer screen pulling random names out of thin air and splicing them together in 200-300 words. A lot of the time, those rumours you hate so much are leaked by agents. It's not pretty and it verges on sinister, but it's an effective tactic for them.
For the first time in a long while - if ever - there's almost as much anticipation surrounding the battle between half a dozen different managers next season as there is around the players. It's... well, it's all gone a bit Game of Thrones, hasn't it? Fractured followings, disputed kings, all vying for one ultimate prize - which they all know they can't hold forever.
Mourinho's finally got the chance he's always yearned for at Old Trafford, so it's time to live with it. Disregarding his meltdown at Chelsea last season, this is a man who knows what he's doing, and knows how to get results - no matter how he goes about getting them. He'll stick to some old habits, and winning will be one of them.
As a dedicated follower of both football and IP, I was intrigued by yesterday's reports that a deal between Man United and Mourinho was being held up ...