Jose Mourinho humbled on return to Old Trafford
Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford on Wednesday was anything but special. The former Manchester United boss was humbled as his Spurs side succumbed 2-1 with two goals from Marcus Rashford outweighing a first half strike from Dele Ali.
The Portuguese manager, who joined Tottenham last month, took charge of United for 144 matches between July 2016 and December 2018 until a 3-1 hammering away to Liverpool ended his reign.
Since arriving in north London, Mourinho has cut a contrasting figure to the brash egotist that first sauntered into the Premier League in 2004 after winning the European Champions League with Porto.
The Humble One, as the British press has now dubbed Mourinho in place of his former “Special One” moniker, has appeared measured and poised, assuring all who will listen that he has softened.
That being said, he would have hoped his players showed more fight at Old Trafford after being overrun in midfield and soundly swept aside.
“In the first half they started more aggressive and more intense and deserved to be in front,” Mourinho told the BBC after the toughest assignment since taking charge at Tottenham.
Rashford opened the scoring on the six-minute mark when he squeezed a driving shot past Tottenham goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga. Alli restored parity five minutes before the break after a sublime first touch allowed him to fire home a quite sumptuous strike into the far corner.
But United struck the fatal blow just four minutes after the interval through Rashford’s penalty to inflict a first defeat on Mourinho as Tottenham’s head coach.
After the match, Mourinho made a point of shaking the hand of every United player, and he singled out Rashford for special praise.
“When he plays from the left he is really dangerous and I knew that and gave the players the best information about it,” Mourinho told the BBC. “His first goal is a typical Rashford goal coming from the inside. Our boys clearly knew that.”
Rashford has now been directly involved in 11 goals in his last 10 appearances for his club with nine goals and two assists. The 22 -year-old English forward’s double means United is unbeaten in its past nine home matches in all competitions and has given his beleaguered manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some breathing room.
“It’s the best game he’s had under me,” Solskjaer said of his in-form striker. “It’s like he was back on the playground or in the back garden. We want them to have fun, there’s nothing dangerous out there. Just 75,000 people wanting the best [of them].”
United is now sixth in the Premier League table with 21 points, one ahead of Tottenham in eighth. Both teams can only crane their necks to catch a glimpse of high-flying Liverpool, which battered city rivals Everton 5-2 at Anfield to remain unbeaten after 15 league matches and maintain its hold at the top.
Reds go marching on
Jurgen Klopp’s men were once again electric going forward with Divock Origi bagging a brace alongside strikes from Xherdan Shaqiri, Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum. Everton, which now drops into the relegation zone following Southampton’s 2-1 win over Norwich, could only manage replies from Michael Keane and Richarlison.
Liverpool made five changes to the team that beat Brighton 2-1 on Saturday but you would not have known it given the side’s slick interplay. Mane was sublime, setting up the opening two goals with delicious passes while neatly slotting home an effort of his own with the inside of his left boot. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson continued to dazzle on either flank. Wijnaldum proved his value in midfield by controlling the tempo of the match.
But it was Origi, who sunk Everton in the same fixture last season with a 96th-minute winner, who impressed his manager the most.
“Outstanding! What a game he played,” beamed Klopp, who has now won 100 Premier League matches, reaching the milestone in 159 matches, second fastest behind Mourinho who got there in 142. “It was not only the goals but the goals were exceptional. Apart from that, incredibly important runs for us, movements, used his speed, looked so natural. It was a pretty impressive performance from Div,” he told the BBC.
Everton is one of six original members of the Premier League never to have been relegated since its inception in 1992 alongside Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea.
That record is in danger after three defeats in a row and manager Marco Silva’s tenure hangs in the balance.
“I am not the right person to answer about the situation, this question is for different people,” Silva said when asked about his future by the BBC. “We are making some mistakes which put us under big, big pressure. The type of mistakes we are making is because the players are playing under big pressure because of the position in the table.”
Flying Foxes maintain pace
Leicester City’s remarkable form means it is in second place, eight points adrift of Liverpool following a comfortable 2-0 win at home to bottom of the table Watford. Jamie Vardy was once again on target with a second half penalty with James Maddison adding extra gloss to the scoreline
Brendan Rodgers, who has been linked with the vacant Arsenal job, has defied expectations this campaign. His team has won each of its past seven league fixtures since a 2-1 reverse at Liverpool in October.
“It was a real team effort tonight and to get seven wins on the spin in the Premier League is a great achievement,” Rodgers told the BBC. “The team is developing and are proving they have a winning mentality and mindset.”
Leicester, which stunned the football world by winning the 2015/16 title, now has two winnable games away to Aston Villa – which lost 2-1 at Chelsea — and Norwich, before traveling to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City on Dec. 12.
Wolves’ 2-0 win over West Ham means it remains fifth, two points ahead of Manchester United and six adrift of Chelsea.