The walk was strong. Jose Mourinho, shoulders back, chest out, expensive black overcoat zipped up to his chin, entered the arena with a swagger and left it looking like a proper Manchester United manager again, his name ringing around a jubilant Old Trafford after their 3-2 victory over Newcastle.

He had been a man determined to portray an image of strength and confidence at the start of the evening; a manager emerging from the darkness of the tunnel with a sense of poise and purpose.

If he is going to be forced out of Old Trafford this week, as some headlines suggested on Friday night, despite the strong denials that followed, the Portuguese was going to do so with his head held high. There was something else, though, a glimpse of the emotions behind the act, a hint of vulnerability in the way Mourinho started to glance sideways into the stands as he walked towards his dugout. On more than one occasion he held the gaze of a supporter who had cheered or clapped him. There was even a smile, a nervous, thank you sort of look.

You cannot hide as a manager under pressure, you cannot show weakness, not in the dressing room, not on the touchline, but Mourinho is human not machine. He knows what is at stake. Lose his job at Manchester United and he may never get another like it again. Reputation tarnished, armour penetrated, fail at Old Trafford and Mourinho will look like damaged goods. There will be other opportunities, of course, but perhaps not one as big or glamorous as this again. If this was supposedly Mourinho's swansong, his final act as Manchester United manager, it started with cowardice and ended in heroism. Booed off at halftime, his team left the pitch to a standing ovation, completing a stunning second half comeback to claim all three points. If these players no longer want to play for such an abrasive and confrontational manager, they have a funny way of showing it.


Nothing Mourinho has done this season has been easy to swallow. Even those who have remained generally supportive, clinging on to the belief he remains the right man, even while performances and results have deteriorated, find much of what he has done unpalatable.

What Mourinho needed was a performance, something for everyone at the club to rally around. A victory to calm things down, three points to buy him and his players some time to compose themselves.

He needed a show of defiance. What he got in the first half was a surrender, two goals down inside 10 minutes against a team that had scored four goals in the Premier League in seven games before this.

At halftime, with his team trailing 2-0 to a Newcastle side without a win all season, Mourinho began to jog down the touchline, picking up the pace in a race to salvage something, even if was just pride. What followed was remarkable, a fightback so unexpectedly impressive that it deserves to sit alongside any of the famous ones of old.

Mourinho did not celebrate the winning goal. He looked at the ground in front of him while everyone else celebrated deliriously. The Portuguese might just have got things back under control, both in himself and the team he leads.