Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho returns to his former home on Saturday seeking to stop the rot against a high-flying Chelsea team playing with a smile on their faces under Maurizio Sarri.
United fought back from 2-0 down at home to Newcastle to win 3-2 two weeks ago to hand Mourinho a stay of execution as reports emerged that the Portuguese were set to be axed.
That rousing revival kept the man who won three Premier League titles at Chelsea in a job for now.
But a far more demanding run of fixtures, including two matches against Juventus and a trip to Premier League champions Manchester City, will determine whether that victory was a turning point or a false dawn.
United travel to Stamford Bridge already seven points adrift of Chelsea, who are level on 20 points at the top of the Premier League with City and Liverpool.
Mourinho’s season has been blighted by confrontations with key players and an inability, or refusal, to play the brand of attacking football United fans became accustomed to during the glory years of Alex Ferguson’s 27-year tenure.
After missing out on City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp in the years since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, United may also come to regret not chasing Sarri when the Italian was on the market in the summer.
Even during his successful periods in two spells at Chelsea, Mourinho was an arch-pragmatist. Despite his clashes with Sarri’s predecessor at Stamford Bridge, Antonio Conte, the two had more in common than they would probably like to admit when it came to tactics.