There is growing concern inside Old Trafford that Jose Mourinho might resign his post as Manchester United manager at the end of the 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.’
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 traveler 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.
But 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.
He and his wife made a home for themselves in Cheshire, often dining out in nearby restaurants and even joining the local tennis club. For the residents of Bowdon and Hale, the Van Gaals were a regular sight, sometimes when enjoying an evening stroll together.
By contrast, Mourinho is something of a recluse, and far more likely to be spotted by commuters on the platforms at either Stockport or London Euston.
The issues, of course, go way beyond Mourinho’s living arrangements. The fight he seems to be picking over the purchase of new personnel, the club can almost accept.
There is certainly a willingness to recognise that Mourinho is entitled to disagree with the choices of his more immediate predecessors, namely David Moyes and Van Gaal, when it comes to players. Just as the club would recognise that Jose Mourinho has more than played his part in getting the club back at the top table in the transfer market.
But as reported by Sportsmail on Wednesday, it has been noted that he 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 utterly 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.
But 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 fueled 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.
But here was a footballer who never tried to maximise his income by employing an agent to agitate for a pay rise or secure a commercial deal, preferring instead to pay an accountant an hourly rate when it came to negotiating his employment contract.
When asked about Scholes, Jose Mourinho also defended himself. ‘I am proud to represent this club and every day I try to do my best,’ he said, and there is no doubt he does.
But he cuts a disgruntled figure, a malcontent seemingly unhappy at United and always looking to escape the city.
‘Paris Saint-Germain would be low-hanging fruit for him,’ said one well-placed observer on Wednesday.
He could even get the train there.