October 4, 2020 was supposed to be the beginning of a new era for Tottenham under Jose Mourinho.
As it turned out, it was the beginning of the end.
On only the fourth matchday of the season, Spurs went to Manchester United with a point to prove.
Having finished the previous campaign in sixth place, which Mourinho had celebrated as if he had won the title, this was supposed to be the season that this new Tottenham, under the tutelage of their ‘born winner’ in the dugout, would overcome their inherent Spursy-ness and finally challenge the Premier League’s big boys.
That day in October, it looked like the sky was the limit for the North London side.
Spurs claimed their biggest ever win at Old Trafford as doubles from Heung-min Son and Harry Kane, and solitary strikes from Tanguy Ndombele and Serge Aurier saw them hit six past their demoralised hosts after Martial was sent off. That though, has been a rare point in a season of unrelenting lows.
With Spurs sliding down the table and crashing out of the Europa League in embarrassing fashion to Dinamo Zagreb, it’s no exaggeration to say that the return fixture on Sunday could well be the death knell for Mourinho and his ill-fated spell at Tottenham. With Liverpool coming into form again, Chelsea impressing at almost every turn and West Ham performing at their best level in a generation, it seems to be yet another year without top four football for Spurs under the Portuguese.
And that simply is not good enough for a club that had title ambitions just a few seasons ago and reached a Champions League final under Mauricio Pochettino. When Daniel Levy hired Mourinho back in 2019 the Tottenham chief called the former Real Madrid boss “the best coach in the world”.
We’re at a point now where that glowing commendation has to be used in the past tense. Time after time, Spurs have lost games because they have not been proactive enough when ahead, have not pushed for another goal, opting instead to sit back and try to see out a game. That sort of reactive football worked 15 years ago, it doesn’t anymore.
Tottenham have lost 15 points from winning positions this season, only Brighton and Fulham have more and there can be no greater indictment of Mourinho and his inability to coach a progressive side than that. Their draw at Newcastle last time out was the latest in a series of disappointments that have seen Mourinho try to rescue his own reputation by shifting the blame on to the players.
A BBC journalist asked after the game at St. James’ Park why Spurs had once again lost a lead, claiming “that used to be something you were so good at”.
Same coach, different players
was Mourinho’s reply. Truly a shocking swerve of his responsibilities as a manager but no surprise from the man whose ego comes before everything else. His statement might have bitten him back this time with the best players Harry Kane and Hueng-min Son reportedly looking for moves to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively.
With Manchester United currently on an astonishing run of 22 Premier League games unbeaten, Sunday looks like being another day for the Mourinho apologists to go into overdrive.