12 March 2020, by: Leonard Solms
Mourinho on the Ropes, as Ole Holds all the Aces
José Mourinho’s excuses during difficult spells are often agonising to listen to. At times, they ought to be taken with a pinch of salt. The usual hyperbole was on display after Spurs’ (2.35) Champions League loss to RB Leipzig, but ahead of Manchester United’s (1.20) visit, it is difficult not to feel sympathetic for the former Red Devils boss, whose team faces an injury crisis.
Steven Bergwijn, Ben Davies, Harry Kane, Davinson Sánchez, Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-min all missed the 3-0 second-leg defeat to Leipzig. Mourinho is not expecting any returnees ahead of the Manchester United game.
BET: SPURS v MAN UTDThe Red Devils sit fifth on the Premier League table, four points ahead of eighth-placed Spurs. United have won seven and drawn three of their last 10 games in all competitions with a Thursday Europa League clash with LASK still to come.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his team firing on all cylinders, rejuvenated by January signings Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo, while also boosted by captain Harry Maguire’s form.
Mourinho often fares best with his back against the wall. His critics were reminded of this when a Spurs side without Harry Kane beat Manchester City 2-0 at home. However, Mourinho’s team that day included Bergwijn, Sánchez and Son.
The claim that every single player on Leipzig’s bench during their 3-0 win over Spurs would have started in his team was probably an exaggeration from the self-described ‘Special One’.
That said, even quality players such as Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli were exposed against Leipzig. Mourinho can be forgiven if, at this point, he is wondering who in his squad he can trust.
BET: SPURS v MAN UTDHis job now is to prove that he can still get the best out of the players at his disposal. United are still prone to occasional blunders, such as the goal they conceded in the 1-1 draw with Everton.
Mourinho will likely aim for a solid defensive display and perhaps even underhand tactics to frustrate the Red Devils. He is not going to win this game playing beautiful football, but there is always a chance he might nick it in similar fashion to Chelsea’s 2-0 win over title-chasing Liverpool in 2014, or Spurs’ recent triumph over Manchester City.
Tottenham were not clinical enough against Leipzig, where a first-leg deficit forced them to chase a result. This time, they are likely to absorb pressure, wait for United to make a mistake, and hope that they can pounce.
Make no mistake, though: a Mourinho masterclass under these circumstances would be a minor miracle.