You used to know what you’d get with a Jose Mourinho team. While there were some subtle differences in the way he achieved success at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid, the principles that underpinned his tenure at each club were from the same managerial textbook.
Tottenham Hotspur picked up a copy of that textbook by hiring Mourinho in November 2019, but it has since become apparent the north London club is reading from an ancient scripture. Daniel Levy wanted a coach to lead Spurs into a glorious future. Instead, he got yesterday’s man still living in the past.
While Spurs were willing to become a Mourinho team to achieve more tangible success in the form of silverware, the man himself no longer knows how to build a Mourinho team. All the qualities and character traits that once made the 58-year-old European football’s go-to guy for instant success are long gone, as are the hallmarks of the teams he used to build.
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No Premier League team has failed to win after leading at half time as often as Spurs this season (seven). No Premier League team has conceded as many goals in the last 10 minutes of matches as Spurs have this season (nine). And no Premier League team has dropped as many points in the last 10 minutes of matches as Spurs have this season (11).
Not even victory in the Carabao Cup final would be enough to paper over the cracks. Mourinho was hired to bring silverware to Tottenham, but there is so much wrong with the Portuguese’s team right now that a win over Manchester City on April 25 would be little more than a token.
If Levy is thinking straight, it would have the same lack of significance for Mourinho as Manchester United’s FA Cup win of 2016 had for Louis van Gaal, who was sacked just says later to make way for the Portuguese as his replacement. Spurs might have to wait until the end of the season, when a reported exit clause would be activated by finishing outside the top four, but going any further down this path will only cause more pain.
Mourinho is now coming up with so many excuses to explain what has gone wrong that he is tying himself in knots. “We played against a good team,” he said after Sunday’s defeat to Manchester United. “Lots of quality, lots of power, lots of strong players in midfield, not just technically, but fundamentally physically.”
This is by and large the same Manchester United team, and midfield, Mourinho frequently called out for being substandard during his time as manager there. Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw, all players Mourinho marginalised and have since improved since his exit, were indeed excellent in the 3-1 victory.
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At both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, Mourinho’s successes, which have been few and far between, were down to him while the failures were attributable to someone else, never the man in the dugout. Nothing is ever his fault. It’s almost always down to the players he has, which are seemingly never good enough. Even the ones bought for him in the transfer market at great expense.
Mourinho continues to roll out these tired, worn-out excuses despite the fact that all of his last three teams (Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United) improved markedly after he left. That can be Spurs. They can escape this cycle of never ending tedium just as many of Mourinho’s former clubs have done to rediscover their sense of self again. Tottenham made a deal with the devil to get their hands on some silverware. Even if Mourinho delivers a trophy later this month, it’s clear that deal hasn’t been worth it. This is hell.
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