A 4-2 victory and a place in the last 16 of the Champions League – things went well for Jose Mourinho on his home debut as Tottenham’s new manager, but they could have gone horribly wrong.
Beating Olympiakos ensured that the feel-good factor continued for Spurs after their 3-2 win at West Ham the previous Saturday, but the Mourinho era looked to have hit early problems as they went 2-0 down to the Greeks.
His predecessor at Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino, failed to deliver any silverware during his five years in north London, whereas the Portuguese has landed 20 major honours at the five clubs he has managed. Mourinho is a serial winner, but Spurs are still finding their feet under him, particularly at the back.
They may have bid farewell to Pochettino, but the defensive problems and lack of confidence which plagued his final months at the club manifested themselves as early as the sixth minute as Olympiakos – bottom of Group B with one point – took the lead through Youssef El-Arabi.
Things got worse, with less than 20 minutes on the clock, as Ruben Semedo doubled the visitors’ lead. Mourinho took decisive action, substituting Eric Dier for Christian Eriksen in the 29th minute, and Dele Alli pulled one back for the hosts on the stroke of half-time.
After the match, Mourinho revealed that he had felt the players were ” in need of some love at that time and not the critical one” during the break. Whatever he said did the trick as his team tore into their opponents in the second half, with their new boss bringing his characteristically emotional body language into his technical area at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Harry Kane levelled the score just five minutes after the second half began, assisted by Lucas Moura and following Serge Aurier’s rapid throw-in. The ball boy who had swiftly retrieved the ball for Aurier received a hug from Mourinho and praise from him after the game.
Aurier added a goal of his own in the 73rd minute as Spurs went ahead for the first time, and Kane sealed the win with his 20th Champions League strike in 24 games; two fewer matches than previous record holder Alessandro del Piero took to reach that number with Juventus.
There remains much work to be done by Mourinho, and his first aim is to chase down the Premier League’s current top four as they threaten to pull away from the following pack. But with Champions League knockout football assured, he can get down to focusing on that task.
José Mourinho’s return to the Premier League starts as his Tottenham Hotspur side face Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham at the London Stadium.
The two are former foes and have faced off a total of 15 times already, with Mourinho being the more successful of the two, winning on eight occasions.
The last time they met was September 2018, when Pellegrini’s Hammers overcame the Portuguese’s Manchester United team 3-1 at home.
The London Stadium faithful are currently missing two of their key players with Lukasz Fabianski (thigh) and Manuel Lanzini (shoulder) unlikely to feature for the hosts.
However, Jack Wilshere, Michail Antonio and Mark Noble could all be match fit to face off against their bitter rivals.
As for Tottenham, Paulo Gazzaniga will have to assume regular duty in goal as both Hugo Lloris (arm) and Michel Vorm (calf) are currently out. Winger Erik Lamela (thigh) is also still yet to return.
There is some good news for Mourinho’s side, though, as both Jan Vertonghen and Tanguy Ndombele have made a full recovery and could feature for the first time under their new boss.
When the two London sides last met, the Hammers won 1-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium courtesy of a winner from Michail Antonio in the 67th minute.
The Hammers have failed to win any of their last seven matches in a streak that started with a 4-0 loss in the Carabao Cup to League One side Oxford United.
Conceding goals has been the issue this season as Pellegrini’s men have shipped two or more seven times this season with their goal difference sitting at -6.
Their Chilean boss knows that form has been an issue: “Of course it was very unexpected because we finished last season very well and we’re playing well this season also. For different reasons we must find why we didn’t continue playing in the same way and winning games. Especially against Palace and Sheffield United at home, there were games we deserved a better result.
“The Premier League this year is very tight – within three points there are eight teams. We must try to recover our performance, and I hope that this will be a good game to try to return to winning our home games.”
Tottenham have been underperforming hence the change in management, with Spurs currently sitting 14th, only six points above Watford in the drop zone. This is due to the London side failing to win in the league since September 28th, when they beat Southampton 2-1.
For Spurs, the Champions League has been a welcome distraction from Premier League football, with their last two wins being a 4-0 and 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade.
The North London side’s mentality has been criticised in recent months, with them either losing or drawing from a winning position in six of their 17 games so far this season.
Mourinho came out backing his players who are in dire need of a win with the Portuguese boss announcing: “The best gift for me is that, I don’t need players, I am happy with the ones I have.
“I just need more time with them. I know them well from playing against them, but you never know them well enough.”
For West Ham, a loss could be disastrous and even though Pellegrini has been given the dreaded vote of confidence, failing to win could end with him out the job as there isn’t many more chances he can be given.
If Tottenham were to lose, it shouldn’t have a major effect with their manager easily being able to say that he’s not had enough time with his squad yet.
London Stadium photo by Dan Dyer via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
In a small corner of the Johan Cruijff Arena, the Tottenham fans are blasting out their famous Mauricio Pochettino chant. Lucas Moura has just scored a 96th minute winner against Ajax to send them to a first-ever Champions League final, following one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of the competition. It feels like a culmination of all the Argentinian’s hard work – he has transformed the club into realistic contenders.
Had someone told you that night that Jose Mourinho would become Tottenham manager by the end of the year, you would have laughed at them. But just 19 games later, with Spurs languishing in 14th position in the Premier League, that is exactly what has transpired.
Despite a horrific run of form which has left them closer to the relegation zone than the top four, Pochettino’s sacking still sent shockwaves through the football world.
He is undoubtedly one of the world’s top coaches and has already been linked with several high-profile jobs. Not many would argue against him finding a job at a club bigger than Spurs before the end of the season.
It is easy to forget that the club made the top four just twice in the Premier League era before Pochettino’s arrival. He has made Champions League football the norm at White Hart Lane, all whilst operating on a shoestring budget relative to many of their rivals.
He also built a special rapport with the fans, as scenes such as those following their dramatic win over Ajax demonstrate, when the Argentine cried tears of joy amid the celebrations.
But in football there is no room for sentiment; chairman Daniel Levy had to act on what he felt was best for the long-term future of the club.
In truth, Pochettino’s downfall began well before their historic Champions League run. Tottenham have not won away in the league since January – and even that came in injury time against relegated Fulham.
They have earned just 25 points from their last 24 games, and have won just three league games this season. They were also demolished 7-2 at home by Bayern Munich and knocked out of the Carabao Cup on penalties by Colchester.
There had been doubts for several months surrounding Pochettino’s long-term future, and a feeling that he would jump ship the moment a bigger job came his way. He has been growing increasingly frustrated with the club’s lack of willingness to spend big in the transfer market; they didn’t make a single signing last season.
“In Mourinho, Tottenham have a man who knows how to win”
Sacking arguably one of their greatest ever managers so early in the season may have seemed a rash decision by Levy had he not had a proven winner ready to take over.
In Mourinho, Tottenham have a man who knows how to win. Not just football matches, but trophies, something Pochettino was unable to deliver during his five years in charge.
The contrast between the two could not be greater. One actively seeks to bring through youth, looking to improve individuals rather than replace those who may be struggling, and build a team over a number of years.
The other is a winning machine, who will stop at nothing to achieve success, regularly looking to the transfer market to solve problems.
On the face of it, Mourinho does not seem the perfect fit for the North London club. One of the main reasons’ thing turned sour for him at Manchester United was over the hierarchy’s failure to deliver his transfer targets. Levy will need to dip his hand into his pocket far more often that he has previously in order to satisfy the Portuguese’s wishes.
Levy was not put off by his bitter Old Trafford exit, where he was sacked after a turbulent last six months at the helm. His second-place finish the previous season looks impressive now, and he managed to win two trophies during his tenure, but fell out with many during the process, most notably Paul Pogba.
There is hope that Mourinho will be able to convince several big names to remain at the club
Mourinho often feels like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode as happened in his third season at both Chelsea and United. However, he knows this is potentially his last chance in English football, so will surely come into it with a different, more measured approach.
The three-time Premier League winner is not known for undertaking rebuild jobs, but that’s exactly what he faces in North London. Three key players – Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen are all out of contract at the end of the season, while others such as Serge Aurier, Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama have been offered around Europe with little success.
It shows the mismanagement of the club that Eriksen, who was dead set on leaving following the defeat in Madrid, wasn’t sold and could instead leave the club for free next summer.
There is hope, though, that Mourinho will be able to convince several big names to remain. Surely at least one of the out-of-contract trio could be persuaded to sign a new deal, but even if this happens, there will still be a considerable rebuild needed.
Keeping Spurs talisman Harry Kane will be a priority for the new manager. His social media tribute to the departing Pochettino showed how strong the bond was between the two. But it is likely the future of his star man was on Levy’s mind when he decided to opt for Jose – if anyone can convince him to stay, he can.
Levy has made a tough decision, but the right decision. Mourinho is a gamble, but one worth taking. Expectations are far lower at Tottenham than any of his previous clubs. Jose has won 10 trophies since Spurs last lifted silverware – there are few people better placed to end their drought.
The end came with Manchester United 19 points behind league leaders Liverpool and closer to the relegation zone than the top of the Premier League.
After an emphatic 3-1 defeat by their old rivals at Anfield on Sunday, United finally sackedJose Mourinho as manager.
Having joined in May 2016, the former Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss led them to League Cup and Europa League success, and into the last 16 of this season’s Champions League.
Mourinho had lived at the Lowry Hotel since his appointment – perhaps a sign that he never truly believed he was at Old Trafford for the long haul.
Growing criticism of United’s style of play and endless tales of the Portuguese falling out with leading players, including record signing Paul Pogba, combined with poor results to seal his fate.
Despite spending nearly £400m on 11 players since he was first appointed, Mourinho let it be known that he felt let down by the club in terms of recruitment.
‘Whoever comes in will be charged with restoring United’s tradition of attack football’
However, many critics and fans argued that United’s local rivals Manchester City have spent roughly the same to much greater effect.
Whilst they weigh up their options, the United hierarchy have appointed former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager for the rest of the season.
Zinedine Zidane, Mauricio Pochettino, Laurent Blanc and Leonardo Jardim are just a few of the names in the frame. Some pundits believe that Blanc, who played under Sir Alex Ferguson towards the end of his career, could be the man to bring the best out of French star Pogba and compatriot Anthony Martial.
Whoever comes in will be charged with restoring United’s tradition of attack football. Furthermore, with Mourinho, gone key players such as Martial and De Gea are now more likely to sign new contracts.
Another mostly lacklustre, disjointed display in the defeat at Anfield proved to be the final straw for owners the Glazer family and the club’s board.
Xherdan Shaqiri came off the bench to hammer the final nail in Mourinho’s coffin with two deflected goals as Liverpool ran out easy victors.
Sadio Mane opened the scoring with a great volley after his cleverly timed run was picked out by an accurate lofted ball from Fabinho in the 24th minute.
Liverpool had dominated the game up to that point and deserved the lead.
However, an error by goalkeeper Alisson gave United an undeserved chance before the break when he spilled Romelu Lukaku’s seemingly unthreatening cross into the path of Jesse Lingard who, in fairness, did well to follow it up.
After the break, United looked much more fluid and compact. They were starting to frustrate Liverpool, who resorted to shooting from distance.
Afterwards, Mourinho said: ‘In the moment when the game was going down, Liverpool’s intensity was dying, the centre-backs were shooting from 30-40 metres because they could not find spaces in a dangerous area.”
Thus, Klopp then sent on the maverick number 10 Shaqiri to try and find those spaces, and there was a bit of luck about both of his goals. But on balance, it was nothing more than Liverpool deserved.
When the scores were tied at 1-1 it was a tale of two approaches. Mourinho opted to bring on a central defensive midfielder in Marouane Fellaini at half-time, whilst Klopp brought on Shaqiri to chase the win.
Incidentally, Liverpool substitutes have now scored eight goals this season. Those substitutions summed up the managers at the moment.
Mourinho, who hadn’t tasted defeat at Anfield since 2007, was in a fairly gracious mood after the game.
“They [Liverpool] are fast, they are intense, they are aggressive, they are physical. They play 200 miles per hour with and without the ball. I am still tired just looking at [Andy] Robertson. He makes 100m sprints every minute, absolutely incredible.
‘Robertson, Mane, Salah, Wijnaldum, Keita, Fabinho: they are physical players and on top of that they are good players technically. I have lot of good players technically but we don’t have lots of players with that intensity, that physicality, so when the game has high levels of intensity it is difficult for us.’
Mourinho had previously promised the board he’d be fourth in the table by Christmas, but last week he backtracked on that prediction, saying it was impossible.
Although United fans have largely been patient with ‘The Special One’, many found this an unacceptable state of affairs for a team who finished second last season and spent £72.5m (Fred £52m; Dalot £19m and Lee Grant £1.5m) in the summer.
With their title hopes long gone, and having been knocked out the EFL Cup by Derby County, Mourinho had a relatively easy home tie against Reading in the FC Cup third round coming up in the new year.
However, the draw for the Champions League knockout stages was less kind and saw United pitted against French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, which just about summed up Mourinho’s week.
Normally, teams under Mourinho are renowned for not conceding too many goals, but this season United’s leaky defence have already conceded 29 which is more than the whole of last campaign.
Furthermore, it wasn’t just the fact that they conceded lots – it’s the fact they have been utterly dominated too often.
‘At Inter, he once looked forward to a Champions League tie at Old Trafford, saying “I want to destroy United”. Unfortunately for their fans, Mourinho has pretty well done just that’
At Anfield, they only registered six shots in the whole game, whilst Liverpool managed to muster 36.
When Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto, he raved that his team were amazing at regaining possession, comparing them to mad dogs with a big bite.
At Real Madrid, he hailed his players’ clinical counter attacking, whilst at Inter he boasted how they could defend for five straight hours without conceding.
None of the above applied at United, where Mourinho generally seemed more determined to throw his players under the bus than praise them.
Whilst with Inter, he once looked forward to a Champions League tie at Old Trafford, saying: ‘I want to destroy United.’
Unfortunately for United fans, Mourinho has pretty well done just that – but whilst sitting in the Old Trafford hot seat – and walks away with £22m for his troubles.
Aware that they could not afford to slip further behind their local rivals in the race for the title, Manchester United tore up the script and tore into Arsenal at the Emirates.
They were two goals up in 11 minutes against the shell-shocked Gunners, who pulled a goal back just after the break before a third for United made it 3-1.
Jose Mourinho is renowned for his spoiling tactics away from home against other teams towards the top of the table, but that approach was ditched in favour of one more in keeping with United’s rich attacking traditions.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will be fuming that his side were caught napping by those two early goals, but in truth this was a deserved victory for his old rival.
The Frenchman and the Portuguese have been the best of enemies since the latter’s first stint at Chelsea, and they exchanged fiery words and a shove or two on the touchline a few seasons ago.
Arsenal went in to the game in good form and full of confidence but were ambushed by Mourinho’s ambition to hit them hard straight from the off.
Within the first four minutes, Antonio Valencia took advantage of some slack Arsenal defending to put the visitors ahead.
With the Gunners still regrouping after that setback, Jesse Lingard made the most of Anthony Martial’s pass and chipped the ball over goalkeeper Petr Cech on 11 minutes to put United 2-0 up. Mourinho’s side were buzzing and bossed the first half of the game.
Whatever Wenger said to his troops at half-time clearly had an impact, and Alexandre Lacazette found the net in the 49th minute to give the disgruntled home fans hope of a comeback.
Nullifying the threat of Lacazette had probably not figured in United’s game plan. A few days earlier, Wenger had ruled him out of contention because of a groin injury, but the French striker was in the starting XI. Mourinho wasn’t alone in catching a whiff of something fishy…
Arsenal now had their tails up as that pre-match confidence flooded back, and United had David De Gea to thank for some outstanding saves in the second half. The Spanish stopper was rightly lauded as man of the match after keeping the Gunners at bay.
Sure enough, as the hosts pushed for the equaliser, they left the door open for United, and Lingard duly stepped through it to score his second.
On 64 minutes, a simple, rapid counter-attack instigated by Paul Pogba ended with Lingard side-footing home to give Arsenal a mountain to climb.
The score remained 3-1 at the end of a breathtaking encounter, giving Mourinho a first win in his past 12 away fixtures against the Premier League’s ‘big six’.
However, it wasn’t all good news for United as they headed back north, with Pogba suspended for the vital Manchester derby clash on December 10th.
The midfielder was given a straight red in the 74th minute for a reckless lunge that saw his studs planted firmly into Hector Bellerin’s calf.
Mourinho, who is known for causing a scene when he disagrees with the referee’s judgement, perhaps surprisingly stayed in his seat rather than berate the fourth official.
Neither did Pogba’s team-mates seem to take issue with the sending off, and the general consensus among the travelling support was Pogba only had himself to blame.
But United will go into the derby at Old Trafford buoyed this result and their performance at the Emirates.
Can they still catch City? Pep Guardiola’s team are widely viewed as champions elect this season, but it would be unwise to rule United out of the running just yet.
City also began last season at a blistering pace before slowing down after the hectic Christmas period.
Plus, United now seem better equipped to mount a serious title challenge. Apart from the occasion blip, their struggles of the previous campaign, as characterised by too many draws and uninspiring, narrow wins, seem to be behind them.
United are clearly getting more out of Pobga, now that the £85m midfielder has been given more freedom to roam forward, thanks to the summer signing of Nemanja Matic.
Lingard is now staking a strong claim to be a regular starter, with young talents such as Martial and Marcus Rashford improving all the time, and the likes of Phil Jones and Ashley Young realising their potential.
United can definitely challenge City this season if their current form continues, but the result of this weekend’s derby could go a long way to deciding the destination of the title.
Every season, many young footballers go through the dreaded experience of getting released by a professional club.
The realisation that they will not fulfill the dreams they have chased for years can be a hard blow to take and for many of them, the opportunity will have passed forever.
To rub salt into the wound, in some cases the judgment comes from the player’s favourite club, the one they will watch for the rest of their lives thinking ‘what if’.
Former Arsenal trainee and lifelong Gunners fan Matty Willock knows this scenario all too well.
After spending his formative years dreaming of emulating his hero Thierry Henry, at the age of 15 he was given the bombshell news that he would not be kept on as a scholar in the under 18s.
But it was not the end of the story, as amazingly he was offered a second chance – at Manchester United.
Despite the turn in events that got his career back on track again in Manchester, the pain of rejection by his first love was hard to take at first.
“I’m an Arsenal fan so I was dreaming of playing for them one day,” Willock said.
“But when I was 15 I got released. They told me they weren’t giving me a scholarship, so obviously I was without a club.
“Fortunately the head scout at Arsenal was in contact with United and he organised a trial for me to come up and play a couple of games. Luckily enough they said they wanted me, so I signed for United when I was 15.”
For many Premier League academy cast-offs, this type of career rescue act is unheard of. Some might drop down a division or two and have a mediocre career in the lower leagues; most will slip out of the professional game altogether.
Of course, grassroots football is where every player begins their journey to the top and the man from the capital’s East End was no different.
Recalling his pathway to Old Trafford, Willock said, “I started off in Sunday League when I was six or seven.
“I was at Ridgeway Rovers. David Beckham played for them and there are a few other players who have come through there. It was probably the best club around my area, Chingford, and they’ve got good connections with a few clubs like West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal.
“Then I got a trial with Arsenal when I was about 10 or 11 and I just went up through the age groups.
Now 20, andan important figure within United’s under 23’s, Willock’s career is on the up.
Having trained intermittently with the first team squad, he further proved his worth to the Red Devils’ hierarchy with a 93rd – minute winning goal in the Premier League 2 fixture away at rivals Liverpool.
The Londoner’s header deep into injury time secured a 1-0 victory at Anfield, and three vital points for his team.
The next challenge for United’s match winner on Merseyside, is to force his way into Jose Mourinho’s reckoning and make his first senior appearance; something another member of the Willock family has already achieved this season.
“I’ve got two brothers who still play for Arsenal; Chris and Joe,” said Willock, proudly.
“We used to play together as kids in the park, my dad used to take us every day. It was just something to do. It’s good going home and being able to watch my brothers and they’re both doing well, so that’s a good thing.
“Joe (17) is playing for the under 18’s at the minute and Chris (19) made his [first team] debut in the EFL cup [against Nottingham Forest] which was obviously a big moment for him because he’s a proper die-hard Arsenal fan, it was a dream come true.
“I wasn’t there and it wasn’t on TV so I didn’t get to watch it, but he told me he did well.”
Whilst his younger siblings continue their development in North London the older Willock brother knows he must bide his time for the opportunity to feature in Mourinho’s plans.
Furthermore, to be considered for a loan move away from Old Trafford in order to pick up valuable minutes in a first team environment, Willock concedes that he must listen to the instructions and wishes of his club.
“I’ve been with the first team a bit in training, hopefully I can push my way forward. Patience is key, really. Sometimes as a player you really want something but you have to remember the club always knows best.”
Mourinho is famously a manager who tends to utilise experience, rather than youth, within his squad and therefore the path to the first team will not be straightforward for any young player at United.
Yet Willock, in pursuing his dreams, has proven that he is not adverse to overcoming barriers placed in his way.
Having bounced back from his early experience of rejection and the harsh realities of competitive football at the highest level, what message would Willock pass on to youngsters who, like him, have been left high and dry by their academy experience?
As you’d expect, old-fashioned hard work is high on the list. But so too is keeping a level head and realising there is still time for things to change.
“It’s not the end of the world,” he signs off.
“It’s easy to give up and start thinking you’re not good enough when people say it by releasing you, but you have to keep believing in yourself and keep working hard. If you’ve got the talent you’ll come through.”
“Tottenham at home. We all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll f*cking do them,’’ said Roy Keane, back in the days when he, Scholes, Beckham and Co. would ensure that Spurs wouldn’t even see the ball on their annual Old Trafford trip, let alone have it long enough to do anything with.
This season was different as Spurs saw too much of the ball, if anything, and still didn’t know what do to when they had it.
Tottenham helped themselves to over 60% possession, which may come to a surprise to some but in reality this is a regular thing for Pochettino’s side. The North Londoners have out-possessed all but two of their opponents so far this season but often lack ruthlessness in the final third.
Passing was again the theme and for all the 429 passes they attempted, over double that of United, it was one simple, piercing ball by Ander Herrera that breached the Spurs backline and unleashed Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The way Danny Rose and Kyle Walker maraud forward as wide midfielders is indispensable to the way Spurs build their attacks.
But for all the undoubted positives this entails comes one fatal negative, as Spurs found out when Harry Kane gave the ball away in the middle of the park, leaving Rose helpless halfway up the pitch.
Mkhitaryan was allowed a clear run through on goal and two touches later the ball was in the back of the net. One measured touch to take it into his stride, and another to lash home high into Hugo Lloris’ goal, and a reminder to Spurs that £26m can actually buy you a half-decent winger.
“Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting”
Spending wisely has been a problem at White Hart Lane for a number of years now. With the absurd amount of cash floating around in the Premier League, Spurs have used their budget about as sensibly as the Greek government did.
Even with the second best defence in the league and the rare luxury of having a 20-goal-a-year striker in Kane, Tottenham still look short compared to their competitors.
And that is down to the inconsistency, as the attacking midfielders who support Kane blow hot and cold far too often. None more than Heung Min Son, whose overall game was epitomised at Old Trafford.
He had two shots of note, one fierce left-footed drive from 25 yards that was well tipped over by De Gea, and the other cutting in from a promising wide left position, as well as having other options, blazed high and wide into the Stretford end, a stark contrast. He was then hauled off just shy of the hour mark.
If Son was in those box of chocolates Forrest Gump was referring to, he’d be the exclusively wrapped up one, with little to no chance of knowing what your going to get. But to single out the South Korean would be harsh.
Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting. Record summer signing Moussa Sissoko has failed to make the matchday squad at times this season, let alone warrant a place in the starting XI.
“The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game”
Tottenham’s flair players are too timid and patient, so it was no surprise to see them prancing around the edge of the United box, creating the impression that something promising was about to happen. It didn’t.
The one time Dele Alli managed to break through late on, like a man shot of confidence, he cut back, stalled, and the chance was inevitably squandered.
United manager Jose Mourinho was animated and agitated simultaneously, like a harried wedding photographer haplessly ordering for everyone to squeeze in the picture that bit more.
Pochettino appeared calmer on the touchline which could have only been his very best poker face, as he would have been far from impressed at what his team were producing in the final third.
The Argentine spent a lot of time motionless scratching his chin, like we all used to do back in school to gain more time attempting to answer a teacher’s question.
He had the look of a man who knew he had three defenders and Georges-Kevin N’koudou to choose from to somehow change the game around.
“In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down”
Plus Sissoko, who must have fancied it in training this week, as Pochettino brought him on to run at makeshift left-back Matteo Darmian who looked about as convincing as those Walls of Jericho.
Wladimir Klitschko was present in the crowd and the Italian looked like he’d just gone 12 rounds with him as he was beaten on a number of occasions, but Spurs lacked the conviction to land a knockout blow.
The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game.
Paul Pogba berated Marcos Rojo like a strict father for going to retrieve the ball for De Gea after winning a free kick deep inside his own half late on. Gone were the days where United would go for the kill but they knew they had done enough to blunt Spurs here.
In only three of their last 13 games have the North London side scored more than a single goal, so limiting them to scraps was not one of the world’s toughest of tasks.
In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down. Rose claimed afterwards that they are ‘still in third gear compared to last season’.
Spurs have to start delivering over the Christmas period as they are already 10 points off the league leaders Chelsea.
Manchester United’s Sean Goss remains content to bide his time and wait for the opportunity to impress Jose Mourinho.
The central midfielder, 20, has been at United since signing from Exeter City as a 16 year-old and despite being named in previous match day squads for the first team, is still yet to make his competitive debut.
But having recovered from a serious back injury that sidelined him for almost 12 months, Goss is focused first and foremost on regaining his fitness, before pushing for a place in Mourinho’s thinking.
“I’ve only just got back fit, I’ve been out for a year and I’m still on the road to recovery,” Goss told Elephant Sport.
“I had two fractures in my back and I’ve been out since last December. I played my first match [a few weeks ago], so I’m just concentrating on getting a few games under my belt and see where it takes me from there.”
A footballer’s lifestyle might not often be described as ‘back-breaking’, however an accumulation of stresses and strains will soon mount up for a top-level athlete.
As is often the case, the road to recovery can be a long and arduous one.
“Van Gaal really helped my game and pushed me forward”
Describing his frustration at the injury Goss explained: “[The fractures] happened over time.
“I woke up and could hardly move, so I had tests, and then three months where I wasn’t allowed to do anything, I just had to recover. No gym, no swimming, no training or anything, which is hard, as you don’t know what to do with yourself.
“You’re watching games and you just want to be playing, so that was another big test. I had the time off and then when I got back I had to slowly build up with injections and that kind of thing.
“Hopefully now that’s the end of it.”
Prior to his ill-timed injury, the Devon-born youngster had made big strides towards staking a claim for a spot within United’s first team.
Having signed whilst Sir Alex Ferguson was in his final years at the helm, Goss had seen David Moyes come and swiftly leave before Louis Van Gaal arrived.
Fresh from leading the Netherlands to a World Cup semi-final, Van Gaal set about building a competitive, yet youthful Manchester United team.
The Dutchman’s move from orange to red proved fruitful for Goss who feels that the former Barcelona manager helped to raise the levels of his game nearer to that of a Manchester United first team player.
“Obviously I was younger when Sir Alex Ferguson was here. You’d see him around, as you would all the managers.
“But the main one when I started to push on was Van Gaal, he really helped my game and pushed me forward.
“He was always communicating with me in some way, whether I was playing for the under 23’s or if I was in and around the [first team] squad. If I was training with them they were always letting me know how I was getting on, what I could do better.”
“I was just at that age as well where, with the other ones before I was maybe a bit young in my body, but I think that was the time [under Van Gaal] where I was turning into a man.”
In fact, Van Gaal rated Goss so highly that he took the left-footed midfielder on the club’s pre-season tour of the USA in 2015.
Despite drawing comparisons to Michael Carrick in terms of playing style, it might have been easy to presume that Goss was there to make up the numbers; taken along to gain experience.
However there was to be a fairy-tale ending, as Van Gaal introduced Goss as a second-half substitute during the friendly with Paris Saint-Germain, handing him his first team debut.
To add a further poetic element to the moment, it was Carrick who made way for the debutant.
Recalling the mixture of nerves and excitement, Goss explains; “You dream of making your debut but it’s hard to explain how it was.
“You’re there training and you hope you get your chance but when it finally happens you’re just concentrating on the game. It was a big crowd in a big stadium as well so it was a dream come true.
“He [Van Gaal] said I would get my chance. I just remember being sat there on the bench and getting told to warm up.
“It’s almost as if your stomach drops and your heart skips a beat for a second, but it was quality.”
Upon returning from the USA, Goss continued to be involved in Van Gaal’s first team environment, making the match day squad for the trip to Watford in the league and travelling with the squad for the Champions League tie away at Wolfsburg.
“When you’re younger you think ‘I’ll play for Man Utd one day’”
United scored in the last minute to defeat the Hornets 2-1 at Vicarage Road and whilst being an unused sub, the experience was of vital importance to Goss.
Sitting alongside him on the bench that day was Marcus Rashford, who would later go on to make his breakthrough for club and country, whilst Jesse Lingard and Paddy McNair made sizeable contributions on the pitch.
All three had been peers of Goss before being given their breaks by Van Gaal and at the time, the left footed Devon man hoped he might follow suit.
Whilst many Utd fans believed the time was right for Van Gaal to leave at the end of last season, for Goss there was a feeling of what might have been.
“I felt like you never know what could happen. There were a few injuries in the squad at the time, but it’s hard to say, as I never got to as I was injured.
“But you saw that other players came through and made appearances, so you’d be hoping that I would have been one of them.
“I was on the bench at Watford and then travelled to Wolfsburg with the squad. Again, when you get told you’re involved it’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s another amazing experience I can look back on and hopefully I can get more of them.”
Goss has been working towards his first team breakthrough ever since making the move from Exeter City in 2012.
A boyhood United fan, he had previously been the mascot for the Grecians’ memorable FA Cup third round draw at Old Trafford, whilst dreaming of stepping out at the ‘theatre of dreams’ as a player.
“When you’re younger you think ‘I’ll play for Man Utd one day,’” he said.
“But it’s only when you’re older you look back and realise it’s near enough impossible [to sign for Manchester United]. To get the chance is quality and looking back I never expected it.
“There were tough times… but I think they’re the most important times where you’ve got to keep your head and keep working hard”
“I started at Exeter when I was about seven or eight and played a year up for most of my time, until under 16s. I had a few chances with the youth team and then I was lucky enough to get a trial with United.
“I went up [to Manchester] and played a couple of games. I went to Amsterdam and played against some big teams like Ajax, Barcelona and AC Milan.
“After that I was lucky enough to get signed and joined when I was 16.
“It was tough, the first year especially. You’re only young, 16, moving away from home and it’s not like it’s just around the corner either. There were tough times where I felt a bit homesick but I think they’re the most important times where you’ve got to keep your head and keep working hard.
“The coaches are a big help; you get the welfare officer and coaches. When you’re a first-year scholar you’re not really near the first team, usually just the youth team and reserves, but the coaches were a big help if you ever needed some time off.”
Class of ’92
Amongst the coaches who helped Goss to settle were members of the famed ‘Class of ’92’.
Along with the likes of Warren Joyce, who recently left the club to become manager of Wigan Athletic, and senior members of the first team playing squad, the young players at Carrington could depend on a strong support network.
“They were all really good with us, every single one of them.” Said Goss.
“We had Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes for the Champions League [UEFA Youth League], which was always helpful, especially with the experience they’ve had at the club. I think you always need someone like that who’s had history with the club.
“You can go up and talk to any of them, there’s no big egos. Everyone’s human at the end of the day, if you wanted to chat to anyone they’re more than happy to help you out.”
Mourinho has historically favoured experience over youth throughout his career and not many people would be able to argue against the Portuguese’s policy given his medal haul.
But at a club such as Manchester United, whose homegrown players have been a major part of the club’s sustained success, there is an expectancy amongst the supporters that they see their ‘own’ players on the pitch.
Whether or not Mourinho sticks around long enough to give youth a chance remains to be seen. For players like Goss the key will be hard work and patience.
On his first match back at Stamford Bridge as manager of another English team, former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was given a stark reminder of how easily things can change in football.
Stood in the opposition dugout and now at the helm of Manchester United, Mourinho watched on as his team’s dreadful start to the game inspired chants of “you’re not special anymore” from – admittedly, only a minority of – home supporters.
A year ago, those same fans were well and truly singing a different tune, in unison. “Stand up for the Special One,” was once the cry around Stamford Bridge as the Blues struggled to defend their Premier League title. Not anymore.
A broken man
As he witnessed the 4-0 dismantling of his United side from the technical area, Mourinho cut a frustrated and disappointed figure.
“Mourinho’s body language in Sunday’s game was a reminder of a chapter that most in west London want forgotten”
It was a sight that Chelsea supporters were already familiar with, engraved into the memories of those who cannot simply ignore the disastrous season of 2015/16.
We all know the story, and Mourinho’s body language in Sunday’s game was a reminder of a chapter that most in west London want forgotten.
Ten months after the 53-year-old’s sacking, however, it seems Chelsea have finally started to turn a corner.
Slowly but surely, former Italy coach Antonio Conte, now occupying Mourinho’s old seat in the dugout, is repairing the damage left behind by his predecessor.
Players who were shattered in confidence under Mourinho, like Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, are now all performing at their very best again thanks to the Italian.
With a renewed sense of freedom and adventure, the days of players feeling shackled and restricted under Mourinho are a thing of the past.
Chelsea midfielders and forwards alike are truly blossoming in Conte’s 3-4-3 system, and the former Juventus manager is reaping the rewards of having ditched the 4-1-4-1 formation deployed earlier this season, a formation similar to that of Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1, in favour of his trusted three-man defensive set-up.
After a bleak, dark and depressing 2015/16 season, the future looks somewhat brighter for Chelsea.
It is too early to predict whether Conte will be a success or not at Stamford Bridge. But what can be seen clearly under the 47-year-old is the establishment of an on-field identity and a long-term vision for the club.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham are often picked up for the high-intensity football and constant pressing game they play on instruction from their respective managers, and Conte too wants his Chelsea team to be recognised for such.
For Mourinho, it was about winning at all costs. However, that does not seem to be the case for Conte.
For the three-time Serie A winning manager, Chelsea must win, and win in style.
As well as what appears to be a difference in footballing philosophy between the two, Conte has made it clear that unlike Mourinho, he intends to utilise the young talent that Chelsea have produced or are producing.
John Terry – who made his debut in 1998 – was the last success story to come from Chelsea’s academy, but that could soon be about to change under Conte, a manager renowned for giving those who deserve to play a chance regardless of their age.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah are all a part Conte’s plans with the latter finding himself gaining more first-team minutes as each matchday passes.
As for Mourinho and Manchester United, something has to give sooner or later if they wish for a change in fortune. But that is not Chelsea’s concern.
After all, Mourinho himself said it better than anyone else could have after Frank Lamapard’s move to Manchester City in 2014. “When he decided to go to a direct competitor then love stories are over.”