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white hart pain Jose Mourinho just hasn't moved with the times - he's just not cutting it at Spurs


Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho has been under pressure lately

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho has been under pressure lately

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho has been under pressure lately

WHEN Spurs host Manchester United today, it is not just a meeting of two of English football’s most famous clubs.

It is a clash between two managers who have a lot on their plate.

Jose Mourinho just isn’t cutting it at Spurs.

‘The Special One’ seems frustrated that his Tottenham outfit cannot do what his old Porto, Chelsea, and Inter Milan teams used do with their eyes closed.

Which is to go a goal ahead and defend mightily until you got the second on the break and made it 2-0.

But has the game moved on without Jose adapting? He is just sticking to what he knows best.

After all, it is now almost 18 years since he first entered our consciousness when Porto beat Martin O’Neill’s Celtic in the UEFA Cup final in Seville.

Back then, no one had heard of ‘gegenpressing’, nor would anyone countenance the idea a team could win a big tournament using six midfielders, and no forwards. But that was how Spain won Euro 2012.

The game changes, is it now an issue that Jose has not altered his notion of using his defensive-first philosophy?


Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane battles with Manchester City's Ruben Dias

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane battles with Manchester City's Ruben Dias

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane battles with Manchester City's Ruben Dias

And nor has he changed Spurs in his image. Maybe it is because of Covid, or because Spurs are still paying construction bills on their new stadium.

But Jose has been curiously quiet in the transfer market since settling in North London – and as much in terms of lads leaving as arriving.

Today the heartbeat of the Spurs squad is Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min, all of whom played under Mauricio Pochettino. Jose has not followed his usual technique of getting ‘his’ players into a dressing-room at all.

It seems, too, that his occasional videos from the dressing-room, his full-blown TV series last year, and the manager’s occasional blast at the players in the papers, haven’t helped.

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That stuff never works for a manager. The dressing-room is sacred. Anyone can say anything in there. As long as it does not come out in public, then you know you are dealing with lads you can trust.

Alex Ferguson, in his golden days, his winning days, with Manchester United, would roar and shout and bawl out players in the dressing-room.

They’d expect to see their names in the following day’s papers, taking flak from the manager about how badly they played.

It never, ever, happened. Instead, the following day’s headlines would be about some row Fergie had had with Arsene Wenger or Gerard Houllier, or whoever else he wanted to have a go at, to deflect from his team’s terrible display.

Not a word about how badly Manchester United had played as a team, or how badly individuals had played. No wonder Alex Ferguson’s players loved him.

Do Jose Mourinho’s players at Spurs love him? I seriously doubt it.

Perhaps, too, for his own sake, Jose should have taken a leaf out of Pep Guardiola’s book.

After deciding to leave Barcelona in the summer of 2012, Pep insisted he was going to take a year out of the game.


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola

That he would not manage in the 2012/13 season, and would, instead, recharge his batteries by living for a year in New York and learning to speak English.

Everyone thought Pep was just trying to up the price with whoever wanted to employ him after those wonder years at the Nou Camp.

But, no, the Catalan stuck by his word, took a year out and then began life as Bayern Munich boss in the summer of 2013.

Jose has had time out of management on occasions, but always after being let go by Chelsea, Manchester United, or whoever.

He’s never taken a ‘career break’ for the want of a better word – never when he controls when he goes off and what he does with that free-time.

While Jose struggles with Spurs, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not struggling in that vein with Manchester United.

Yet, nor do I see signs that the glory days are on the horizon for the Red Devils either.

By ‘the glory days’, I don’t mean all that Fergie won.

I mean that United would go on a run, over the next five seasons, where they would win two Premier Leagues, an FA Cup and a Champions League.

Does any knowledgeable Manchester United supporter expect that to happen with Ole between 2021 and 2026?

It hurts me to criticise a club legend. Ole was a legend on the pitch, but that does not get things done in the dug-out.

It will be interesting to see in the summer if United launch a bid to sign Harry Kane.

It’s what United did in my time and those Fergie days. They went out and got the best player for England’s biggest club.

Kane must be wondering if his club career is going to lead anywhere with Spurs.

In the summer of 2019, coming off a Champions League final appearance, it was just the time to buy two or three more quality players and kick-on.

Instead, the club, hampered by the stadium debts, refused Pochettino’s request to do just that and it has been in freefall ever since.

They need the win today to stay in any sort of European contention, while United need the win to at least finish second to Manchester City.

That should hurt the club’s board, executive structure, management and playing staff.

United went through a period of decades where they didn’t have to play second fiddle to the sky-blue half of Manchester.

Since Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford in the summer of 2013, City have been the undoubted top dogs.

And I don’t see any sign that is going to change soon. That ought to really trouble anyone who is a Manchester Red.

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Online Editors