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Tuesday 11 December 2018

How Jose Mourinho won his battle of the bosses against Mauricio Pochettino

It was Jose Mourinho, in the grey coat, who gained the upper hand on Mauricio Pochettino
It was Jose Mourinho, in the grey coat, who gained the upper hand on Mauricio Pochettino

Anthony Martial's 81st-minute goal gave Manchester United a 1-0 victory over Premier League title rivals Tottenham on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Old Trafford.

Here, Press Association Sport shines a spotlight on United boss Jose Mourinho and Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino.

Team selection

Mourinho was able to restore Eric Bailly to the starting line-up alongside Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as part of a three-man backline, with Victor Lindelof jettisoned after floundering at Huddersfield last week. All eyes were on Pochettino, however, with Harry Kane out injured. The Argentinian shrugged off the loss off his star striker on the eve of the game and opted to bring in midfielder Moussa Sissoko as Son Heung-min was left to shoulder the burden on his own up front. Eric Dier, meanwhile, was preferred to Davinson Sanchez alongside Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen at the back.


United, and Mourinho in particular, have been criticised for a perceived negative approach in the drab draw at Liverpool and last week's defeat to Huddersfield. On their own patch, United were back to a more attacking 3-4-3 formation but appeared to lack a cutting edge in an uneventful opening 45 minutes. Tottenham retained a three-man defence but were unable to give Son, and then Fernando Llorente, much support in attack. They had their moments, most notably when Dele Alli failed to make meaningful contact with a Christian Eriksen dink over the top, but it was United who looked more purposeful as the game progressed.


The changes both managers made showed they would not sit back for a point but neither was willing to throw the kitchen sink to go for all three, as the two changes made on both sides prior to the deadlock being broken were like-for-like replacements. But the introduction of Martial, on for Marcus Rashford, proved a masterstroke as he coolly slotted past Hugo Lloris from Romelu Lukaku's flick-on for the only goal of the game. All four of Martial's goals in the Premier League this season have come as a substitute.


It was hardly a game for the purists and arguably the pouring rain had an impact on both sides' ability to dictate the tempo. But United, who also hit the post just before the opener from Lukaku's header, just about deserved to walk away with a win. Any whispers of unrest at Old Trafford under Mourinho have therefore been silenced but Pochettino may reflect on how the absence of Kane damaged his side's hopes of leapfrogging their opponents in the table.

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