There is an increasing concern inside Old Trafford that Jose Mourinho will not be the manager of Manchester United next season.
Indeed, there is a sense that things are beginning to unravel in an all too familiar fashion, with insiders worried that it will conclude with Mourinho resigning at the end of the current campaign. As one observer remarked on Wednesday, “Jose seems to be having third-season syndrome a year early with us.”
Staff at United regard him as an increasingly detached figure, withdrawing more into the inner sanctum of his own coaching team and spending even less time than usual in Manchester.
Home, as he said recently in one interview, is in London and Mourinho has made no secret of his decision to stay in a hotel when he is in the North West.
And while it would be ridiculous to question the commitment of a manager renowned for his work ethic and his attention to detail, the frequency with which he returns to the family home is causing some alarm.
Mourinho is a regular train traveller but is also understood to sometimes use different forms of air travel for his commute to work.
It is believed he used a private jet on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, having given his players an extended Christmas break by training on the morning of the 24th and the evening of the 25th.
Club officials say they are not aware of a jet being hired, which would suggest Mourinho paid for it personally if that was indeed the case.
the sheer number of journeys south is troubling for some when insiders question why his wife, Matilde, cannot move to Manchester now that their children are no longer living at home.
If results were better and Manchester City were not proving quite so dominant at the summit of the Premier League, Mourinho’s domestic arrangements would not be such an issue.
But when life in the shadow of Pep Guardiola looks so uncomfortable for the former Chelsea boss, it starts to be regarded as a symptom of a wider problem.
Mourinho does represent an improvement on Louis van Gaal but the Dutchman is credited, at least, with committing to life in Manchester.
Mourinho has criticised United’s spending with comments that appear to be aimed directly at the board.
Other battles are also harder to justify, and seem to be self-defeating. The decision to publicly attack Paul Scholes was a curious one when the former United player was far from alone among the pundits in identifying problems within Mourinho’s team.
Rather than respond to a former Liverpool or a former Arsenal player, and in doing so garner the support of the United fans, Mourinho went for a hugely popular figure in Scholes.
He got it particularly wrong when he seemed to suggest that Scholes’s criticism of Paul Pogba was in some way fuelled by resentment over the salary the French midfielder commands.
Scholes was not just an outstanding player. He was someone to whom money did not actually matter that much. Sure, he knew his value to United and today he is an extremely wealthy man. Is Jose Mourinho gradually packing up his bags at Manchester United?