West Ham 2-3 Tottenham: Jose Mourinho is ‘back where he belongs’


It has been a long 11 months for Jose Mourinho.

Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min celebrate
Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min scored Spurs’ first two goals at the London Stadium

So tepid were West Ham for the first 70 minutes of the game, it is impossible to draw any noteworthy conclusions from Mourinho’s first match in charge.

There were no significant substitutions because Tottenham were already three goals ahead when he started to make them.

Before Son scored the opener, it was interesting to see Mourinho prompt him into nudging a couple of strides backwards to close the gap between him, Andriy Yarmolenko and full-back Ben Davies, who was marking him.

Equally, when Tottenham got their second, Mourinho first yelled at the group of players to his left who were celebrating – then, when he got no response, to Toby Alderweireld 40 yards away to his right, to deliver an instruction.

“I want to do my things and I have started doing my things,” he said afterwards with a glint in his eye. “I hope that you [the media] don’t understand it very well and you don’t speak about it a lot.

“But the positional play is different and very adapted to the players.”

A combination of Mourinho’s managerial history and the hand gestures he was using as he delivered a mini lecture to Davies indicates emphasis was being put on making doubly sure opponents loitering in dangerous positions were being adequately watched and that the ball was being played forward quickly on the counter.

The more interesting stuff, especially about Harry Kane, who is not a battering ram striker in the mould of Didier Drogba or Romelu Lukaku, for which Mourinho is noted, can only be assessed over time.

No histrionics, no controversy

Jose Mourinho, Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Jose Mourinho shakes Dele Alli’s hand following the England midfielder’s substitution

As was the case at United, the early impressions of Mourinho at Tottenham have been favourable.

He said it was important to hear music pumping in the dressing room after the West Ham game because it meant the players were happy. The choice was down to the players, he said – although it is understood he was stunned to hear them playing 1980s tunes on Friday. Mourinho said there needed to be a change, so Dele Alli has taken over as DJ.

It will take a while for the stain of his last few weeks at Manchester United to be removed and some stereotypes will never disappear. The West Ham lift operator joked before kick-off: “When I have finished doing this I am going to park Jose’s bus.”

There were no songs in the new manager’s honour from the Tottenham support. But there were none for Mauricio Pochettino either.

If those I spoke to beforehand are any guide, while there is huge disappointment to see the popular Argentine leave, there is also recognition that the situation could not be left as it was indefinitely because results and performances were not good enough.

Mourinho has been brought in to change the dynamic. He must do so knowing many of his squad felt a special bond with Pochettino, which will not be erased because he is no longer around.

Nevertheless, Mourinho looked content.

His celebration at Tottenham’s opener indicated an element of relief as he punched the air in front of him. But there was none of the pent-up anger from the night of his last but one victory as a manager, when he smashed a crate of bottles into the ground following a late Marouane Fellaini goal at Old Trafford.

After staying for the final whistle – something he did not always do in Manchester – Mourinho just turned calmly, shook Manuel Pellegrini’s hand, embraced Alli and hugged his backroom staff.

No histrionics, no controversy. Just a man doing what he does best.

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November 2019