Jose Mourinho has refused to even entertain the idea of Manchester United making a challenge for the title next season.
The 55-year-old led Man United to their best league finish and points tally since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson last season.
But the club’s fallow transfer window, combined with a resultant atmosphere of gloom, has led to most writing off United’s chances of catching Manchester City, who finished 19 points clear in May, over the 2018/19 campaign.
Speaking at a press conference, Mourinho gave a typically laconic response to a question asking whether he could win the Premier League with this current crop of players.
Of course, Mourinho knows deep down that his squad, as it stands, is way off the mark. He finished 19 points behind City last season and, with other sides including the champions strengthening, the work done over the transfer window and on the training ground is nowhere near enough to close that gap even slightly.
But to canvass that scepticism, poorly disguised as deflecting the question, does nobody any favours whatsoever. How can players believe in their ability to win the league when their manager exhibits so little ambition, even in public?
Unfortunately, this window is growingly taking the shape of Mourinho’s final summer at Chelsea – and we all know how that ended.