Wednesday 17 July 2019

Loads Moura misery for Mourinho

Manchester Utd 0 Tottenham 3

Lucas Moura celebrates after scoring Tottenham’s second goal. Photo: REUTERS
Lucas Moura celebrates after scoring Tottenham’s second goal. Photo: REUTERS

Miguel Delaney

An ominous story we've seen before with Jose Mourinho, from a ruthless result we haven't seen in some time.

Mauricio Pochettino claimed his first goals and first points as a Tottenham Hotspur manager at Old Trafford, but even the brutal way they cut Manchester United apart last night will pale next to all of the questions and criticisms to come about the Portuguese and those fatal third seasons.

With the home fans unable to face up to what was actually happening on the pitch, as so many streamed out following man-of-the-match Lucas Moura's cutting late third goal, these are now questions that are impossible for the club not to face up to.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward will now have even more to think about; Mourinho more to growl about.

He will rightfully look to some of his hapless players, not least that defence that he did want replaced, but he should also look to himself. There are bigger problems here than a porous backline.

United just fell in on themselves, in a manner - yes - reminiscent of Chelsea 2015-16.

Harry Kane heads in Tottenham's first goal of the night. Photo: PA
Harry Kane heads in Tottenham's first goal of the night. Photo: PA

It brought his current club's worst start since 1992-93.

They signed Eric Cantona then, solving an obvious issue.

It's difficult to know what Mourinho will do, though, especially since he himself doesn't seem to know how to respond.

There are so many issues, not least his own very responses to them.

Mousa Dembele slides in to deny Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku. Photo: REUTERS
Mousa Dembele slides in to deny Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku. Photo: REUTERS

To qualify some of the criticism of Mourinho, it was difficult not to wonder whether that out-of-nowhere opening goal might have been scored had he got the authoritative centre-half he wanted - like, say, Toby Alderweireld.

Kane's header was itself brilliant, but it's easier to be brilliant when you have so much space to do so.

Having been suddenly thrown back into the team following the mistakes of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones continued to make a series of his own, rushing out for that corner for Kane to then so emphatically and impressively pick his spot in the far corner of David De Gea's goal.

Kieran Trippier's delivery was similarly supreme, as was Spurs' follow-up, as they swiftly cut that United defence to shred in open play.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho applauds fans after the match. Photo: REUTERS
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho applauds fans after the match. Photo: REUTERS

The full-back was again a thrusting force in the move, feeding Christian Eriksen before he set up Moura to so comprehensively complete a surging counter-attack.

There was to be no comeback for United, nor much of a response from Mourinho, beyond the predictably ostentatious.

It said much that Jones was very quickly hauled back off for Lindelof and, while his performance did warrant it, the nature of the like-for-like swap was just something else reminiscent of that 2015-16 season at Chelsea: Mourinho punishing mistakes in the most extremist way, but then forced to go back on it, because the pressure to avoid errors just makes them all the more likely.

As if to almost prove the point, the hapless Lindelof was himself guilty of a howler, letting Dele Alli in for what should have been Tottenham's third.

That wasn't too long in coming, as Chris Smalling got in on the comedy act and contributed his own error, allowing Moura to claim his second and make it 3-0.

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris celebrates after the match. Photo: REUTERS
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris celebrates after the match. Photo: REUTERS

The panicky nature of Danny Rose, Alderweireld himself and Spurs in general from earlier in the game was by then long forgotten, as Pochettino's side remembered they were a Pochettino side rather than the Spurs that usually roll over here.

But that also emphasises how this wasn't just down to the United defenders.

There are now so many problems with Mourinho's team, but it was similarly one of those nights that will provoke these debates over Lukaku's exact level as a striker.

How different it could have been had the Belgian properly punished the worst of Rose errors in the first half, Kane's efficiency emphasising it all the more, just as it might have been different had Alderweireld started in the United side.

Mourinho will naturally point to such knife-edge moments as the ultimate cause of defeat but that was the repeated case in that 2015-16 campaign too, and there's a fair argument that United should be a more fortified and confident team after two years under the Portuguese.

Instead, they just looked fragile and occasionally scared of making mistakes.

The ineffective Alexis Sanchez was introduced, reminding of how he is just another player that has receded at Old Trafford under Mourinho, before the Portuguese went for what now seems his sole solution to any attacking problem in this team: bring on the siege weapon. Marouane Fellaini came on, but still nothing came off for a bedraggled United.

Spurs had by then been too long in control, too long in the lead, and thereby too sure of themselves.

And this should only add to the frustration for Mourinho and United. Spurs hadn't been that good. They had been there for the taking on the night.

Instead, United just re-emphasised how they're going to be there for the taking every game this season - at least under these circumstances.

And that will provoke those bigger questions, that are becoming increasingly unavoidable. There's so much to face up to.

By the end, Spurs were so comfortable that you would never have thought they had lost more times at this stadium than any other Premier League club had at any other away ground since 1992.

They had been allowed boss the pitch, make it their own.

They were in control - something that really cannot be said of Mourinho or his management right now. (© Independent News Service).

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: Kerry back to their best, Connolly’s return and Cork’s baffling inconsistency

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport