José Mourinho is blessed with the useful knack of making people want to please him. In situations where testing demands from other managers might be met by blank, surly stares, footballers are prepared to jump through metaphorical hoops of flame for Chelsea's "Special One".
Mourinho's powers were much in evidence at Newcastle United on Saturday, with the only problem being that they appeared to be exerting their customary spell on those wearing black and white rather than his own players.
There was the way Alan Pardew's face lit up when the Portuguese hugged him long and hard at the final whistle and the sight of Davide Santon – a Mourinho favourite as a teenager at Internazionale – trying so desperately to impress his old mentor that his first-half performance fell apart. After watching Santon once again pick the wrong pass as he sashayed past the technical area, Mourinho wandered over to Pardew, pointed to the Italy left-back he once dubbed "my Bambino", smiled and seemed to say "it's me".
Newcastle's manager did not demur. "José's the man and it was hard for Davide playing in front of his old gaffer," he said. "But it's been my day today and the gentleman that José is means he's honest enough to pat us on the back. You don't always get that from top coaches and managers. I thank him for that."
Had Frank Lampard and company responded to Mourinho's instructions with similar enthusiasm then Chelsea would have extended their unbeaten run to 10 games, adding impetus to a burgeoning title challenge.
Instead their failure to exploit numerous opportunities to probe gaps left "between the lines" by Newcastle's first-half tactic of standing off and allowing them the ball left Mourinho lamenting that his team-sheet contained "11 mistakes". He attempted to correct a couple by replacing Fernando Torres and Juan Mata after 62 minutes but this double switch arguably weakened Chelsea against a home side busy upping and, increasingly, controlling a suddenly intense tempo.
Admittedly Mourinho's side rallied after Yoan Gouffran headed Yohan Cabaye's ferociously whipped in free kick past Petr Cech but Newcastle's Mathieu Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa especially were defending brilliantly and Chelsea came undone on the counter-attack as a fine cross from the underrated Vurnon Anita prefaced Loïc Rémy's wonderful finish.
"It was a really good golfer hitting a perfect seven iron," said Pardew. "It came across Loïc, he didn't look up and went for it, finishing with a good full swing at the end. Class."
How bizarre it seemed that Pardew is persistently perceived as being "under pressure" from Newcastle's owner Mike Ashley. "It's not about Alan, not about talent," shrugged Mourinho. "It's about modern football."
His own relationship with Roman Abramovich may have been repaired but Chelsea's owner will expect an improvement in Wednesday's Champions League home game against Schalke. "I'll be making a lot of changes, for sure," said Mourinho, who remained silent in the away dressing room after Saturday's final whistle.
"I told my players nothing," said a man who has never won a Premier League game at St James' Park. "After the match it's time to cool down. I never say anything to them immediately. I hope there'll be a reaction. I'm angry and frustrated with the team but I'm part of the team and I'll look at myself as well."
Pardew has frequently looked somewhat introspective just lately but he could hardly have wished for a better antidote to the previous weekend's defeat at Sunderland. Not that another reverse against Chelsea would necessarily have placed his job in jeopardy. "We've been playing well this season, we're trying to do the right things and I think Mike Ashley understands the fine lines between winning and losing," he said.
"Mike texted me this week and he knows we played well at Sunderland and could have won. Little breaks in games can make all the difference; we got the breaks today whereas at Sunderland we didn't.
"Chelsea's a big win but let's not get carried away and say we're great and we're going to be in Europe. Or that it'll be a disaster if we lose three games on the spin. It's very important to keep our feet on the ground."
"All I can say to my teams is that if your work-rate, commitment, passion and quality are there every week you'll win more than you lose."
Man of the match Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United)