One minute Jose Mourinho is walking into a press conference half an hour early, the next he is walking out of one waving three fingers in the air and demanding respect.
For those who have followed his colourful career, it might as well symbolise the third season that is historically when Mourinho has left his previous clubs.
Jose Mourinho holds up three fingers as he makes a point about his track record following Manchester United’s 3-0 defeat at home to Tottenham on Monday night
The United manager spent a couple of minutes applauding the fans following the defeat
Even by his standards, it has been a controversial and chaotic few days either side of the defeat to Spurs that has plunged his future at Old Trafford into serious doubt.
Players and staff believe his time is up. Some think he won’t stagger on beyond September. Others think he could even go if United suffer a third straight defeat at Burnley on Sunday.
Publicly, the strain is showing on a manager who has always been so good at manipulating news conferences and the media to serve his own means.
Behind the scenes, Mourinho has cut a very different figure around Old Trafford and the club’s Carrington training complex. There have been no flare-ups, no rants, no tub-thumping speeches for his beleaguered players.
Mourinho has been animated in public as United have made their worst start in 26 years
Mourinho has cut a quiet and subdued figure around United’s Carrington training base
Man United fixtures
Sunday Burnley (A)
September 15 Watford (A)
September 22 Wolves (H)
September 29 West Ham (A)
October 6 Newcastle United (H)
October 20 Chelsea (A)
He has, according to those around him, been quite subdued and low-key, particularly in the aftermath of the limp defeat at Brighton 10 days ago. But he has seen enough in his career to not let the current situation overwhelm him.
There is an air of quiet calm, some would say resignation, about Mourinho’s demeanour as he tries to find solutions with a squad he clearly feels is not up to the job.
Some days he eats with the players in the canteen at Carrington, others alone in his office overlooking the training pitches.
But he knows that the manager sets the mood at any football club, and surliness has been largely reserved for his public appearances.
The loss of Mourinho’s long-time assistant, trusted coach and close confidant Rui Faria is being keenly felt around Carrington, however.
Mourinho has felt the absence of his long-serving assistant and confidant Rui Faria keenly
The atmosphere has changed for the worse since he decided to break up their partnership and return to Portugal at the end of last season.
Faria was a cohesive figure for the rest of the staff and an important buffer between the manager and his squad.
Insiders described the two Portuguese as a double act with a keen sense of humour. Miniature dolls of Mourinho would be strung comically by the neck from the TV in the Coaches’ Room at Carrington or an unflattering photo of the manager would appear on the wall.
Players recount the story of an incident at Christmas during Mourinho’s first season when he and Faria discovered some props in an adjacent meeting room at the Lowry Hotel and interrupted a team briefing to put on a comedy routine using a policeman’s helmet and an oversized yellow phone.
The levity that Faria often brought to the workplace has been missed. Yes, Mourinho has retained his humour and there are still lighter moments.
On United’s tour of the US this summer, for instance, he was seen joking around with some of his players over a golf buggy being used to ferry them to a distant training pitch.
Mourinho’s new assistant coach Michael Carrick makes a point during the Tottenham loss
But the dynamic in Mourinho’s backroom team has changed following his split from Faria after 17 years and that has not helped with the current situation.
Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna have stepped up to be his new assistants and are said to get on well with the 55-year-old.
First-team coach Silvino Louro, who was born in Mourinho’s hometown of Setubal and has followed him from Porto to Chelsea twice, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and now United, fills the role of confidant on a day-to-day basis.
However, fitness coach Stefano Rapetti has yet to integrate himself into the group since his arrival in May, and it’s understood that Spanish goalkeeping specialist Emilio Alvarez is also slightly detached from the rest of the group.
Mourinho will need all their help and his own wealth of experience to guide him through one of the toughest spells of his coaching career.
For all the public braggadocio, he knows how hard it will be to be to survive this time.