The Manchester United manager might believe he can still get away with verbally abusing match officials, pushing Football Association regulations to the limit and repeatedly ranting on the touchline, but the reality is that he is beginning to look like a relic of a bygone age and someone who cannot see the nature of the game changing before his eyes.
Mourinho has become the once-feared bully who has lost his ability to intimidate, but the only person who has failed to realise that is the Portuguese himself.
It was all so different when he was the new kid on the block at Chelsea in 2004 — the young, confident and gifted coach arrived in England fresh from winning the Champions League with FC Porto and quickly upstaged the old guard of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.
Mourinho would light fires, constantly surrounding himself and his Chelsea team with smoke, but he had a team of winners and they enabled him to wage war with other managers and officials safe in the knowledge that he would always have the last laugh on the pitch.
Ferguson and Wenger had happily engaged in verbal battles, with Ferguson never shy himself when it came to raging against officials and the FA, but Mourinho took the art to a new level as he made Chelsea the dominant force of the game — winning back-to-back titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup before departing in 2007.
However, after overseeing one of the worst title defences in recent memory during his second spell at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho’s reputation is not what it once was. He is now just 13 Premier League games into his reign as Manchester United manager and is already facing his third FA sanction in that time after being sent to the stands by referee Jon Moss during Sunday’s 1-1 draw against West Ham at Old Trafford.
He is acting like a badly-behaved child on a weekly basis, projecting a surly image to the world and seems to think that everybody is against him and his club. Yet this has become a tired old act and Mourinho is increasingly looking like yesterday’s man.
Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp both display their emotions on the touchline, but the Chelsea and Liverpool managers tend to use their passion in a positive manner.
The same goes for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, who is smart enough to know that expending energy by ranting at officials is a futile, and damaging, exercise. Mauricio Pochettino is another who focuses only on his players rather than the referee and his assistants. While Wenger? He learned long ago that touchline confrontations are a self-defeating exercise.
Tellingly, there is a clear sense of devotion from the players at Chelsea, Liverpool, City, Arsenal and Spurs towards their managers. Watch the interactions between them before, during and after matches and the common thread throughout them all is a sense of unity.
You do not see that unity and bond at Manchester United between player and manager right now, but perhaps that is because Mourinho is still playing to yesterday’s rules of creating a siege mentality of “us against the world” — waging war on officials and taking offence at so many of their decisions as a deflection tactic in order to shift the gaze away from United’s results.
The problem is, players do not fall for that anymore. Even Ferguson knew he could only play that card occasionally to retain its effectiveness; Mourinho, it seems, only has that one card to play.
Sunday’s draw against West Ham confirmed this as United’s worst start to a season since 1989-90. Mourinho’s record is now officially worse than David Moyes after 13 games and the Scot was sacked after only 10 months in charge.
United have not won a single game after falling behind this season and the draw against West Ham was the first time they have even managed to salvage a point after conceding first, so Mourinho may need to play with smoke and mirrors to take the focus away from the increasingly frustrating results on the pitch.
But to suggest the clashes with officials are all part of a cunning Mourinho strategy would be to ignore the reality of his characteristics. Quite simply, he is a serial offender and sources have told ESPN FC that the rumours that some members of the United hierarchy were uncomfortable with his antics prior to his appointment were true.
Sir Bobby Charlton famously claimed that Mourinho “pontificates too much for my liking” back in the autumn of 2012, when it was suggested that the Portuguese would be the ideal successor to Ferguson.
But United had become desperate last summer after three years of misery under Moyes and Louis van Gaal, so Mourinho was the solution in the eyes of the Glazer family and Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman.
Woodward and the Glazers clearly paid little heed, or didn’t care, about Mourinho’s recent disciplinary record, though.
During his final 18 months at Chelsea, before his dismissal in December 2015, Mourinho was fined four times by the FA — for entering the field of play and approaching the referee against Aston Villa; for postmatch comments about officials; a repeated offence of media comments about officials; then a stadium ban for verbally abusing Moss in the dressing room at half-time during a defeat at West Ham.
His assistant, Rui Faria, also received a four-match stadium ban and a fine of £30,000 for verbally abusing referee Phil Dowd against Sunderland in April 2014 and there were also three instances of Mourinho’s Chelsea being fined for failing to control their players
Such incidents have become the Mourinho way, but there is little to suggest that it actually helps encourage positive results. No other top manager seems to tread the same path to confrontation so regularly and while the managers ahead of him in the Premier League table smile their way to success, Mourinho continues to snarl.
But, rather than working in his favour, this approach is counting against him and his team. And the biggest losers in that are Manchester United.