Jose’s SPECIAL ONES: Mourinho has transformed Tottenham stars with individual text messages, wisecracks and and an arm round the shoulder as they top the Premier League for the first time in six years
- Tottenham Hotspur are at the top of the Premier League on goal difference
- The side beat Manchester City 2-0 on Saturday despite having 17 less shots
- They face Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester before the end of the year
It appears that Jose Mourinho has not lost his golden touch after all. But it is the personal touch that is going a long way towards galvanising a Tottenham squad who looked dead on their feet this time last year.
The Special One is getting a special reaction from his players thanks to individual text messages, wisecracks at the training ground and an encouraging arm round the shoulder.
The 2-0 victory over Manchester City on Saturday evening symbolised more than just three points. It was a statement as Spurs — and Mourinho — moved to the summit of English football for the first time in six years.
Jose Mourinho has transformed Tottenham Hotspur into genuine title contenders this season
It wasn’t that Pep Guardiola’s side were poor. Their football was beautiful and incisive in equal measure, and City’s 22 shots to Tottenham’s five was illustrative of the flow of this match. But Tottenham had an answer to everything City threw at them — last-ditch defending, hassling and harrying.
At the other end, Spurs were ruthless. Only two shots on target during the entire game, but Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso took them both efficiently to claim the victory.
It was all hands to the pump for Tottenham and players do not produce performances like that if they are not fully behind the manager.
Predictions Mourinho’s manner would cause divisions in the squad rather than unite them look unfounded now.
It is fair to say Tottenham’s players reacted to the news of Mourinho’s appointment as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor with trepidation last November.
Harry Kane could be looking to build on his Spurs legacy rather than start a new one elsewhere
They had heard the stories. His ‘palpable discord’ with the Chelsea squad that led to his sacking in 2016, the public falling out with Paul Pogba at Manchester United. Mourinho’s reputation for being a grumpy manager preceded him.
But truth be told, the players have found Mourinho to be quite the opposite. Amiable and engaging, his manner has taken members of the squad by surprise. They were expecting one thing but are experiencing something completely different.
Has Mourinho changed? He may argue not, but there does appear to be a mellowing of the unyielding personality that has rubbed some of the world’s most high-profile footballers up the wrong way.
His light-hearted entrance into the world of Instagram is a case in point. Less cranky, more chirpy. The players are responding.
The attention to detail and his dedication to tactical discipline remain. Defender Eric Dier said: ‘I don’t think teams enjoy playing us. I think we’re physical, I think we’re aggressive, I think we’re determined, we’ve got a good attitude and the manager has definitely brought an extra edge to that.
‘He’s more demanding in certain areas and ruthless with you individually and as a team, so he’s definitely increased that a bit as well.’
At least for now, any pre-conceptions about a morose Mourinho have been unfounded.
Son Heung-Min scored the opener against Manchester City – taking his tally this season to nine
There are always exceptions. Danny Rose has been disregarded and Dele Alli has also been cast aside ruthlessly without any satisfactory explanation.
But the positives far outweigh the negatives in terms of his relationships with players. Perhaps most pertinently, Mourinho has managed to re-energise Harry Kane.
Towards the end of last season, there was a swell of opinion that the England captain had become increasingly agitated at Tottenham, disengaged and unconvinced about the direction in which the club was heading.
The England captain is still to win a major trophy as a professional — a travesty for a footballer as supremely talented as Kane. He looked enviously at his international team-mates who were serial winners at their clubs and asked himself the questions any world-class footballer would.
But Kane finally sees the finishing line under Mourinho, a real sense his first trophy is just round the corner.
Sources claim Kane is now looking to build on his Spurs legacy rather than start a new one elsewhere.
The striker’s development under Mourinho is a clear indication of his renewed encouragement that things will be different under the Portuguese manager.
Of course, Kane and his team-mates’ optimism will be dictated by results. Will Mourinho’s charm fade if results start to go the wrong way?
History suggests it might. With Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester to face before the end of the year, we may be about to find out.
But right now Tottenham are riding the crest of a wave.
‘The manager has definitely brought an extra edge’ – Eric Dier is full of praise for Jose Mourinho
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris 7.5; Aurier 7.5, Alderweireld 8 (Rodon 81min), Dier 8, Reguilon 7.5; Sissoko 8, Hojbjerg 8; Bergwijn 7.5 (Moura 73, 6), Ndombele 7.5 (Lo Celso 65, 6), Son 8; Kane 8.5
Subs not used: Bale, Hart, Davies, Vinicius. Scorers: Son 5, Lo Celso 65. Booked: Sissoko, Kane
Manager: Jose Mourinho 8
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson 5.5; Walker 6, Dias 6, Laporte 6.5, Cancelo 6; De Bruyne 7, Rodri 6.5, Silva 7 (Foden 72, 6); Mahrez 6 (Sterling 72, 6), Jesus 6.5, Torres 6.5
Subs not used: Stones, Gundogan, Aguero, Steffen, Garcia. Booked: Dias, Torres.
Manager: Pep Guardiola: 6.5
Referee: Mike Dean 6.5