He may not always look the happiest but, as he approaches a potentially landmark few days, Jose Mourinho must be very content with how his time in charge at Manchester United is now panning out.
When he succeeded Louis van Gaal last summer, Mourinho and the club would have considered a par score for his first season at the helm to be qualifying for the Champions League and winning a trophy.
United remain in with a great chance of achieving the former and can cross off the latter target on Sunday, when they are favourites for the EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley.
After difficult campaigns last year threatened to downgrade the standing of both Mourinho and United among football’s aristocracy, both parties really needed this marriage to work out.
There have been bumps in the road, but he has brought them a long way from the drab fare Van Gaal served up.
Mourinho has re-established the clout he lost in his final months at Chelsea by guiding United through a rough spell in September, when things didn’t look good at all, and making some big decisions, like replacing Wayne Rooney with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the team’s focal point.
Despite currently lying outside the four qualifying places, a Champions League spot remains a strong possibility.
United are only four points off second place in the Premier League and have cut out their costly habit of drawing matches they should be winning.
They also have every chance of winning the Europa League, which also ensures qualification to the Champions League, and could end the season with three trophies.
In my view, a packed calendar shouldn’t be a problem for Premier League teams, like United, who have 25 first-team players and multiple physios and masseurs.
Rest is beneficial but not as much as the boost from winning. If you start a busy period well the momentum can carry you through and the games can’t come soon enough.
Don't underestimate Saints
Southampton blow hot and cold so it is hard to know what to expect from them on Sunday, but they should not be underestimated.
Claude Puel has done a pretty good job in his first season in charge. They are comfortable in mid-table, beat Liverpool in the semi-finals, and this means as much to them as it does to United.
Mourinho will expect to win some silverware this term though. Even Van Gaal managed to lift the FA Cup, and Jose has tended to get off the mark quickly at each club.
The EFL Cup would be a small step but an important one. It would make a statement about this new United team centred on Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, keep up the club’s commercially important image as winners, and allow them to focus on an even more vital target: Champions League qualification.