Ahead of perhaps the most pivotal week in David Moyes' tenure as Manchester United manager, the furore surrounding Robin van Persie has provided a compelling subplot to the Scot's unpredictable future.
United host Liverpool on Sunday in the Premier League before Olympiakos come to town three days later for the second leg of their Champions League clash, with the hosts needing to overturn a 2-0 scoreline to spare themselves another humiliating cup exit
The miserable mood emanating around the club was partially lifted by United's 3-0 win over West Brom on Saturday and there was even small excuse for some positivity after Danny Welbeck capped a wonderful flowing move for the club's third. It was probably the best sequence of football the club have mustered this season.
But the sight of a visibly frustrated van Persie and rumblings of discontent mark another sour note. Despite Moyes telling the striker he would be substituted at the Hawthorns due to his mid-week run out in Paris for Holland, the 30-year-old cut a fairly irritated figure as he was replaced after an hour.
While some of Moyes' decisions have baffled this season, the one to take off the Dutchman, who was considered lucky to still be on the pitch after escaping a second yellow card, was unanimously considered one of his better shouts.
The differences between the man who at times single-handedly hauled United to their 20th Premier League crown last season and the sulky, frustrated shadow of this season are difficult to explain. However, the one feature of his game that has remained the same has been the most important; his goal return.
The club's top goal scorer this season has 11 goals in 16 Premier League appearances compared to the 26 in 35 last season. It's a marginal drop off at best, given his struggles with injury.
So what's going wrong? Suggestions that Moyes' training methods conflict with those previously handed down to van Persie have often been credited as the source of the friction. The Dutchman's recent comments suggesting his teammates are occupying his space on the pitch also worked to shape the perception that the striker is unhappy at Old Trafford.
This development marks a stark turnaround. Even before the Holland international played his first game for United it looked as if the balance of power in attack was shifting at Old Trafford. The arrival of the Dutchman and Shinji Kagawa in 2012 was a telling indication that Sir Alex Ferguson was looking to change the way his side scored goals. The increasingly icy relationship between the former manager and Wayne Rooney suggested a change was afoot, and had the Scot remained in charge it's very likely the England international would be playing elsewhere with van Persie the undisputed focal point in attack.
But less than 12 months later, Rooney's future at the club is more secure than it has ever been and van Persie is the man seemingly on the brink of leaving the club.
But with such a pivotal summer ahead for United, doing away with the individual who, for all his recent faults, remains the club's most consistent source of goals cannot be considered anything less than foolhardy. Given the malaise that has engulfed the club this season, suggesting that this particular string of incidents involving the 30-year-old marks the beginning of the end of his time at Old Trafford seems overstated.
With the exception of David de Gea, Adnan Januzaj and possibly Phil Jones, finding a member of the first team who has not had their performances, commitment or long-term future at the club questioned during this tempestuous season for the club is a difficult task indeed. With this in mind, a decision to show van Persie the door seems premature and would be ultimately costly to what David Moyes is trying to deliver.
This season the United boss has given every indication that his relationship with the Dutchman is a healthy one. But perhaps the club should be more wary of the player deciding to cut ties rather than the other way around.
The former Arsenal skipper made it clear under no uncertain terms that his move to United was fuelled by the desire to win trophies. Given the own likelihood of their own barren season, United fans can have little reason to be surprised if that desire takes him elsewhere this summer.