Four days ago, Jose Mourinho
summoned his players to a suite at the team hotel in Southampton and questioned their professionalism and commitment in language that left them in no doubt about how he felt.
When asked on Monday if those players are still behind him in the wake of Manchester United
's limp draw at St Mary's, Mourinho avoided a direct answer and chose instead to explain why he believes no player goes out of his way to get the manager sacked.
The message seemed clear enough: whatever the squad think of him, they have a duty to United to perform at their best.
'If you think a player only plays when, in your words, he is behind the manager, what you are calling them is dishonest,' said Mourinho.
'You believe a player scores in his own goal and then runs and celebrates? "I scored in my own goal because I don't like the manager." Do you believe in that? I don't believe in that. A football player is paid — and very well paid — to be a football professional.
'What is that? It is to train every day to his limits, to play every game to his limits; it's to behave socially according to the nature of his job, it's to respect the millions of fans around the world and to respect the hierarchies of a club.
'One thing is to perform well and not so well, another thing is to be a football professional.
'When pundits who were professional players say this player is not playing for the manager, did they do that when they were players? Were they dishonest players? If they were, they shouldn't be in front of a camera speaking to millions of people.'
Paul Pogba was not the only one in Mourinho's sights during the 10-minute rant in which he accused his squad of being responsible for a 'virus' running through the club.
The latest criticism has left the 55-year-old manager more isolated than ever as United prepare to meet Arsenal at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.
Defeat would put them 11 points behind the Gunners, who occupy the fourth Champions League spot.
Arsenal are the only Premier League club in the last decade to recover from a start as poor as United's and make the top four.
Although Mourinho backed away from his comment in an interview with a Brazilian TV station that it would be a 'miracle' for United to do the same, he accepts his hopes of doing it by the end of this month are over following draws with Crystal Palace and Southampton.
'I don't think we need a miracle. We need a good run of results,' said Mourinho, who admitted seventh place was unacceptable for a club of United's stature.
'The target has changed but it changed in the sense of let's try to close the distance as much as we can and try to be by the end of December very close to these positions. I was expecting difficulties this season, but my target is still the top four.'
Mourinho's curious assertion that United are going finish above Everton will do little to reassure fans, and nor will a reminder that two of the top six clubs will miss out on the Champions League.
'There are six teams that should stay in the first six positions,' he added. 'Season after season, two of these teams are outside the top four. Last season, it was Arsenal and Chelsea.'
In the first occasion for 82 games between these clubs that does not involve Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, Mourinho's task against a resurgent Arsenal has been made all the more difficult by a defensive injury crisis.
Although Chris Smalling, whose willingness to play through the pain barrier has been questioned by his manager in the past, is prepared to have a painkilling jab on a fractured bone in his left foot, he is set to be ruled out along with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones.
That would leave just one fit centre back, Marcos Rojo, who has not played since the World Cup. With Antonio Valencia also out and Ashley Young suspended, Luke Shaw is expected to play despite doubts over his fitness.
The sense of unease surrounding United was not helped by Mourinho's answer to the club's in-house TV station when he was asked about the injury situation.
'I don't want to update you,' he said. 'I would like Arsenal TV to make the same questions, but they don't. They hide everything from the inside, so why should I answer to you?'