If Manchester United fans are looking at Tottenham Hotspur right now with a strange sense of deja vu, then it is entirely justified.
Just as so often happens with Jose Mourinho, things are beginning to unravel at a rapid pace — only it’s happening earlier than usual and at a more dramatic speed this time.
After a 2-1 defeat to West Ham on Sunday — their fifth loss in six league games — left his team in ninth place and nine points off the top four, Mourinho was left denying a crisis at Spurs.
“I don’t know what you mean by crisis,” came the Portuguese’s riposte to a reporter at the London Stadium.
“If crisis is frustration and sadness in the dressing room, I’d say so because nobody is happy.”
Asked if Spurs’ poor results had made Mourinho question his own methods, he replied: “No, not at all. Not at all. Zero.
“Because sometimes the results are the consequence of multiple situations in football and mine and my coaching staff’s methods are second to nobody in the world.”
It was the kind of fighting talk we have come to expect from Mourinho.
The Special One has never been one to take defeat lying down, but the winning habit that earned him that nickname at Chelsea in the mid 2000s is quickly eluding him. Looking at Mourinho’s career trajectory now is to see a very clear downward spiral, which fuels those critics who believe his managerial style is antiquated.
He hasn’t won a league title since 2014/15 with Chelsea and only picked up minor trophies during his time at United. And both his second stint at Stamford Bridge and his time at Old Trafford ended in complete calamity.
Something similar is surely around the corner at Tottenham, unless something miraculous happens.
Mourinho’s staunch army of supporters — of which there are many — are running out of excuses. His cult of personality is eroding away.
The Mourinho backers were out in force in December 2018, however, when United relieved him of his duties with club morale at an all-time low. Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw and others had been disenfranchised by the Portuguese, and the previous summer had seen an acrimonious row break out between management and board over the signing of a centre-back.
Mourinho, who had lavished more than £30million apiece on Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, was not given the funds to sign a third central defender in three years. He was given ‘only’ £70million by Ed Woodward to bring in Fred and Diogo Dalot, though his total spend amounted to £362 million on 11 players in five windows.
So there’s no wonder Mourinho’s current gripes at Tottenham — suggesting his playing squad is not fit for purpose — sound so familiar to United fans.
“I think for a long, long time, we have problems in the team that I cannot resolve by myself as a coach,” he said on Sunday, throwing shade at his players.
Yet he had previously claimed the Spurs squad he inherited from Mauricio Pochettino in November 2019 was among the best he had ever taken over at a club: “The quality in the squad excites me.”
Throw in quarrels with Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele and Gareth Bale at various stages and you have the archetypal Mourinho meltdown.
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Manchester United made heavy weather of their 3-1 win over Newcastle, eventually getting the job done at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes were on the scoresheet as United got back to winning ways in the league. They have a Europa League second leg vs Real Sociedad on Thursday.
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All the elements are present and correct: performances devoid of attacking fluency, tensions with the board and fans, disputes with players… they are the ingredients that saw Mourinho’s champion Chelsea teams collapse and proved his undoing at United, too.
The difference in recent years is that Mourinho is no longer winning the biggest trophies to justify the fall-out. He is only a bad result away from becoming unemployable for elite clubs. The cycle is inevitable. Mourinho cannot stop the rot anymore.
So United will sit back and watch it all unfold, safe in the knowledge their decision to extinguish increasingly toxic and tumultuous regime has been justified.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may not bring the best trophies to Manchester United, but he has brought back the sunshine, building an encouraging project with his brand of feel-good, attractive football.
Mourinho is summoning only dark clouds above Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and plenty at Old Trafford could have foreseen that.