FRIDAY'S BIG STORIES
Tottenham reach rock bottom
Good morning. At the time of writing this it’s 6:13am and, let’s just check once more, Tottenham have not sacked Jose Mourinho.
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Frankly, The Warm-Up would have created a mini-distraction at whatever passes for WH Smith in Zagreb airport and left him confusedly pushing his trolley around departures while shovelling the rest of the players and backroom staff onto a plane and getting the hell out of there after a Europa League embarrassment that words can barely do justice to.
It wasn’t just the meltdown on the pitch, which saw Spurs surrender their 2-0 first-leg lead in a 3-0 defeat on the night, with Mislav Orsic scoring a supreme hat-trick which exposed bigger cracks in Tottenham than the mid-Atlantic ridge. It was the reaction afterwards, which didn’t show a club in decline, or grappling with inner demons, but totally imploding in front of our very eyes.
First up to deliver some viral content was Jose “sadder than sad” Mourinho, in a raw eight-minute interview with BT Sport in which he wheeled out his favourite stock lines: essentially that he armed his players with all the instructions they needed, and bad things happened because they didn’t listen to him. Which is convenient, after he lost to a team whose manager was literally put in jail between the two legs.
"They [Dinamo] left sweat, energy, blood. In the end they left even tears of happiness," Mourinho said. "They were very humble and committed. I have to praise them. On the other side, my team - I repeat, my team - didn't look like it was playing an important match. If for any one of them it is not important, for me it is.
"I am disappointed for a difference of attitude of one team to another. I feel sorry that my team is the team that didn't bring to the game not just the basics of football but the basics of life, which is to respect our jobs and to give everything.
To say I am sad is not enough. What I feel goes much further than sadness.
"Football is not just about players who think they have more talent than others. I believe the players only realised the game was in risk when they scored the second and it went to extra time. Before the game I told the players the risks of a bad attitude. At half-time, even at 0-0, I told the players the risk of playing the way we were playing. And it happened, because I believe the players only realised the game was at risk when they scored the second goal and it went to extra-time.
"My players watch and watch and watch Orsic actions during his career. We prepare with the analysts' clips with the qualities of every player. The goals that Orsic scored, I watched them all, my players they watched them all."
Claiming every week that your players aren’t following your instructions isn’t the defence you think it is, Jose. He has honed this one-directional blame culture for years. Ever since returning from Real Madrid to England – first with Chelsea, then Man Utd and now Spurs – Mourinho has been digging out his players with metronomic regularity. And when you have a broken record, it’s probably time to chuck it out.
So far, so expected from Mourinho. But what may really have hammered home the final nail in his coffin was an absolutely extraordinary second interview from Hugo Lloris, as he savaged basically everyone connected to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. The only thing missing was a withering attack on Harry Hotspur.
"It's a disgrace," he told BT Sport. "I hope everyone in the changing room feels responsible. The taste of the defeat is more than painful and we are all responsible. We are a club full of ambition but the team at the moment is a reflection of what is going on in the club. Lack of basics, lack of fundamentals. Mentally we should be stronger, more competitive.
"At this level, when you are not ready, you pay - and if you don't respect the opponent, it's punished. The blame is on all the team, all the club. We are guilty. The way we play is just not enough. One thing is to come in front of the camera and say 'I'm ambitious'. The other is to show it every day. To behave as a team is the most difficult thing in football.
"If you follow the team only when you are in the starting XI, that can be a big problem and today is the consequence of that. We had great moments in the past because we could trust the togetherness in the team. Today I am not sure about that."
So to sum up: By the manager’s own account, the players don’t listen to his instructions. And by the captain’s own account, the club is totally dysfunctional.
Just quickly checking again… it’s not 6:39am and Tottenham still haven’t sacked Jose Mourinho.
Pogba’s grand entrance takes United into quarter-finals
Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrates with teammate Fred
Image credit: Getty Images
By contrast to the Tottenham train wreck, Manchester United navigated their way past AC Milan with relative style. The moment that decided the match was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s introduction of Paul Pogba at half-time, as it took only two minutes for the midfielder to do this:
The Paul Pogba content industry will roll on regardless but there’s just no question he’s a top talent who can decide football matches when he wants to. And if he’s in the mood, could end up with a European trophy at the end of the season.
The Aubameyang narrative fails
After being dropped for turning up late for the North London derby, Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was back in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI for the Olympiakos match and all signs pointed to a heroic, critic-silencing, sending-a-message-to-his-manager, all-action display.
Unfortunately, after forgetting his watch last week, he forgot his shooting boots at Emirates Stadium and wasted a succession of brilliant chances as Arsenal lost 1-0 on the night and limped through 3-2 on aggregate. And after Lloris’s furious rant, it was Bernd Leno’s turn to show that the goalkeepers’ union are, frankly, mad as hell and not going to take this any more.
"I think we suffered today and it was not necessary," Leno said. "I think because in the first 15 or 20 minutes we controlled the game but then we've made too many easy mistakes and in the second half we conceded the goal and then everybody was nervous.
"We made it hard for ourselves and, like I said, it was not necessary. In the dressing room it was quiet because everybody knows that it was not a good performance from us. We cannot change it anymore but the positive thing is that it was a warning. We need to be 100 per cent every game. If we play like today then we won't reach anything this season."
IN OTHER NEWS
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Naming him the best ever Premier League player was, on reflection, a low moment for our proud website.
IN THE CHANNELS
Your Europa League quarter-finals are set with Ajax, Arsenal, Dinamo Zagreb, Granada, Manchester United, Roma, Slavia Prague and Villarreal in the hat. You can watch the draw live on eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app from 12pm.
First up though, there’s the warm-up act of the Champions League quarter-final draw which takes place at 11am and features minnows Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, PSG, Porto and Real Madrid.
Not too much to get excited about there....
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“Listening to Southgate, now England manager, trying to justify yesterday’s callous culling of Trent Alexander-Arnold for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland brought to mind how Venables handled players he valued.”
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