Mediocrity at Manchester United doesn't seem to matter anymore
A few weeks back, Jose Mourinho's fate was sealed.
Manchester United were hovering just outside the top four - hope of a title challenge crushed in record time - and pretty much everyone had had enough of the uninspiring play, shit results, and mardy-bum management.
We were told that the Portuguese would be sacked no matter what the outcome against Newcastle. And then, lo and behold, his beleaguered charges pulled a comeback out of the bag. He was saved...for now.
Fast forward to the arse-end of October and United now languish in ninth place, nine points behind their two greatest rivals. City look imperious, while Liverpool have learned the trick of eking out results without playing particularly well of late.
However, such is the upside-down nature of football logic, Jose's position at the club feels stronger than it was. He has survived his inevitable execution and that in itself has become a new mandate.
Now we have the bizarre situation whereby no one explicitly wants him to leave.
Rival fans are happy for him to stay for obvious reasons. United are floundering, and a combination of Mourinho, Ed Woodward, and a lumpy, inconsistent squad are ensuring a concerted title challenge is way off.
Woodward and the United board, who reportedly wanted Jose gone just a month ago, are now under no immediate pressure to act, and will no doubt be content with a financially adequate top-four finish.
Most intriguing of all, the majority of United supporters seem at least vaguely pro-Mourinho. They have been rallied by a combination of the United suits and rival fans galvanising their protective instincts.
The weekend's events were a perfect example of how the Old Trafford faithful have bought into the cult of Mourinho's personality. Again a non-footballing narrative took precedence over the actual game and its implications.
The mood would have been downbeat after a sickening late surrender at Stamford Bridge...were it not for a touchline brouhaha that stole the conversation away from propping up the top half of the table.
Jose went from dejected to defiant in a heartbeat, and United fans everywhere had a welcome reason to support their man. On this occasion, the altercation was not of Mourinho's design, but he gladly embraced the distraction.
The prevalence of social media means that huge swathes of plugged-in Reds are now loath to break from their public support of the boss - a support that gives them the sheen of ardent fidelity in a knee-jerk age.
All the while, United remain a shadow of what they once were. The gulf between themselves and City is getting ever bigger, and now Liverpool look to be pulling away too. In that context, it's pretty remarkable there's no real impetus for change.
But isn't that sort of the point? If no one's particularly arsed about United's relative struggles - if even their own fans continue to be as saintly patient as they currently are - why does it need to change?
You can easily envisage a situation where United make a decent fist of it against Juventus or City in the next few weeks, while dropping vital points elsewhere. That will continue to buy Mourinho time and keep all parties generally content.
Everyone's a winner - except Manchester United.