Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 6 - I'm sorry for ever doubting Mourinho
After all, I hated Jose Mourinho for taking over Mauricio Pochettino - in my opinion, Spurs’ best ever manager - I hated his negative tactics, I hated his constant whining and I hated how he always has excuses for everything.
And boy, did he shut me up ever.
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Sure, it was the way he set up Tottenham Hotspur to systematically destroy Manchester United at Old Trafford last night, but let’s be honest, I would have simply brushed it off as a once off freak result, because, seriously, Manchester United simply do not lose 6-1 at the Theatre of Dreams.
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But it wasn’t that. It was that he engineered this historic win at the tail end of the most gruelling footballing fixture that a football club has had to face in the history of football. Due to Covid-19, a pile-up of fixtures and general scheduling incompetence, Spurs had to play 5 matches in the past 10 days, ending with last night’s match.
Even the most optimistic of fans could not imagine how those five matches could have gone.
Three victories, 18 goals scored and through to the next rounds of the Carabao Cup and Europa League group stages. I mean, what happened here?
This was when no one would have blamed Spurs for being Spursy, and yet, the boys stood tall and knocked back all challengers. The last time I wrote about Spurs beating Southampton, I credited it to the Gareth Bale bump.
I may have been Mourinho’s harshest critic, but I’m going to have to say the management of the team’s performances for these 10 days is all down to the Special One. The excuses would all have been valid, but credit to Mourinho, he had quietly and unspectacularly gone about ensuring that Spurs’ squad depth is now deep enough to challenge on all fronts, and even if they are faced with a ridiculous scheduling clusterf*** like the one Spurs just bulldozed through.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty might not be world beaters, but they certainly added quality depth to areas where Spurs were a little short. I was one of the few that slapped my forehead when Mourinho brought Joe Hart, but his performances so far, especially in the 7-2 demolition of Maccabi Haifa, has turned my foot into Michelin-starred cuisine.
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And then there was the signing of Sergio Reguilon, who looks like he will be the best left back Spurs has seen since Danny Rose actually could play. And the most uplifting part that would make every Spurs fan in the world repeat that familiar refrain of this year being our year? We’ve not even seen one second of Bale and new striker Carlos Vinicius yet.
So it wasn’t just a 6-1 demolition of the Red Devils, it was a 6-1 demolition from a team that has no right even to be standing on their feet at the end of an inhumane schedule, and who still has two world class players yet to play.
Yes, it’s the calling of that perennial frenemy - hope.
I have no doubt that at some point, we will feel let down again, but for now, let’s relive last night’s magnificence with the following play-by-play.
Line-up: I resist the urge to complain about the fact that there is no Toby Alderweireld, no Matt Doherty and no Lucas Moura. I should, because I’m not confident that Serge Aurier can handle Marcus Rashford or that a Eric Dier/Davinson Sanchez defence can stop Bruno Fernandes splitting them up. But it’s about squad management after a tough 10 days, so I cut Jose some slack and trust he knows the best team possible for this match.
1st min: PENALTY! And the resistance ends.
Swear words come out of my mouth, I curse Sanchez for his clumsy tackle just as I curse Mourinho for picking him. I curse so much that my neighbour had to pop over and say, Edwin, children live in this neighborhood.
2nd min: GOAL! Bruno never misses penalties.
Not even when Hugo Lloris tries to steal a yard and pounce early, Fernandes still plants it comfortably into the bottom right corner. What a terrible start to the game.
4th min: GOAL! Spurs equalise! I didn’t even have time to grieve!
A combined £120m of defensive talent in Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly somehow unite to screw up a simple throw in, which allows Erik Lamela to harass Maguire and Shaw off the ball, with the loose ball falling nicely to Tanguy Ndombele to drive home. 1-1, with thanks to United’s defence.
7th min: GOAL! The Son rises again!
Yet again, United’s defence went to sleep. After fouling Harry Kane near the halfway line, Maguire inexplicably backs off and allows Kane to take a free kick, which he slips right into the path of an unmarked Son Heung Min. Son sprints past covering defenders running in molasses and dinks David De Gea. Great link-up between Kane and Son, but a gift from United really.
23rd min: Greenwood almost levels it.
After 15 or so minutes of cautious play, partly due to the frenetic opening seven minutes, Mason Greenword shows a bit of individual brilliance to wriggle free of four defenders to send a shot narrowly wide of Lloris’ post. There’s some life in the Red Devils yet.
25th min: That woke Spurs up.
A long ball from the back finds Son through one-on-one. But he channels my amateur futsal self with a heavy touch and the chance is lost as the ball trickles too far ahead of him and into De Gea’s arms.
27th-28th min: Spurs pour it on.
Spurs attack in waves and cause panic in Man United’s penalty area. First, Aurier’s low cross gets palmed, then Lamela, Reguilon and Ndombele all take turns pounding De Gea’s goal. One of those leads to a fateful corner.
29th min: RED CARD! Martial bitch slaps Lamela. He probably deserved it though.
It’s a mess. Lamela rolls his elbow across Anthony Martial’s face, Martial retaliates with a slap across Lamela’s chin. Lamela falls to the ground in slow motion and Martial gets sent off. Frankly, as much as I want to win this match, such behaviour is shameful and should not be condoned in football. Martial was wrong but Lamela shouldn’t act as though someone took his head off. Let VAR do its work and if they decide it's red, so be it, but don’t try to get a fellow professional sent off.
30th min: GOAL! United’s defence, the gift that keeps on giving.
The last thing Man United needed was yet another defensive error, but one minute after the red card, Kane catches the defence trying to play out of the press and scores from the turnover. To go 3-1 down a minute after a red card is the nail in the coffin.
37th min: GOAL! The game is ended as a contest.
Moussa Sissoko plays Aurier free on the right and his low cross meets an onrushing Son who is left unmarked for him to tap the cross between De Gea’s legs and into goal. There is no fight at all from the boys in red. And they are boys right now.
51st min: GOAL! Even Aurier scores. The humiliation is almost complete.
A neat passage of play sees Hojbjerg play Aurier free on the right with Paul Pogba not bothering to track back. The right back drills a low shot into the far post and it’s 5-1. At this point, I’m starting to feel sorry for United. Nah, not really.
77th min: PENALTY! Pogba completes his night with lazy tackling
Pogba was meant to be a leader upon his return to United, he’s shown that he’s anything but. Sliding in lazily to stop a Ben Davies cross, he makes it easy for Welsh left back to tumble over his body to earn a deserved penalty. Pogba laughs as he walks away.
78th min: GOAL! Kane finishes a historic night
Man United has been terrible, but take nothing away from a Spurs that was meant to come into this match a spent force. Kane’s penalty is icing on the cake, but the calls for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s head will get loud in the morning.
Take nothing away from Spurs, this was magnificent. There will be a bigger shock to come later in the night, but Mourinho has truly transformed Spurs into a side that has to be taken seriously and on a weekend that Leicester, Manchester City and Liverpool all lost ground, the Special One may have shown exactly why he’s a serial trophy winner with the transformation of a Spurs side that was destined for mediocrity not three weeks ago.