Cometh the hour, Cometh the man; Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League. Whether you agree or not with the style or substance of Pochettino’s departure, Mourinho is now firmly in charge at Tottenham Hotspur. Less than twenty four hours after Poch left through the side door, Jose was standing in Spurs training ground holding up that famous white shirt.
That image was hardly universally accepted as a good thing. The Tottenham fans are very much divided on the events of last week with some optimistic about the future and others more fearful of it. That terror is directly related to the new manager as Mourinho has become a somewhat divisive figure in recent years. His last job in charge of Manchester United left a bitter taste in the mouths of many onlooking football fans.
But should Spurs fans be judging Mourinho based on what happened at Manchester United and Chelsea before that? Arguably not. The truth is that the Jose Mourinho of Manchester United and second spell Chelsea is not the same Mourinho as the one that rose to prominence at Porto, brought cavalier style of football to Chelsea and steered Inter Milan to their first Champions League title. He had fundamental changed, broken by his experience in Madrid with Real. His stay at the Bernabeu was anything but pleasant with player dissent and meddling from above marring a three year stay. His escape back to England and his beloved Chelsea was supposed to restore his love of the game but instead he walked into some of the same issues that he had left in Spain. Mourinho managed to power through his first two seasons winning the title in the latter but by then the wheels had already started to come off. A very public bust up with club doctor Eva Carneiro on the opening day of the new season was the beginning of the end and eventually Mourinho was sacked following a string of poor performances. He moved to Manchester shortly after that but was never truly in the right mindset to manage in the cauldron that is Old Trafford.
There are lots of reasons why Mourinho and Manchester United never worked out. Despite delivering the UEFA Cup and the EFL Cup during his two and a half year stay, Mourinho was never happy at Old Trafford. Part of that was due to living away from his family in a hotel for most of the time which would take its toll on most of us. Another was the lack of structure above him with questions still being asked to this day about Ed Woodward’s suitability to his current role as Chief Executive. And finally the squad itself – ageing, ill balanced and full of pre-madonnas who believed they were better than they actually were. Mourinho was always going to fail there much as his predecessors did and successor has. Mourinho never could quite fit Sir Alex Ferguson’s shoes in the eyes of the fans but then nobody ever could.
In his press conference announcing his arrival at Spurs, Mourinho looked and sounded different than before; more rested, relaxed, better composed and with that famous grin back on his face. He was more like the Mourinho of old, the Inter Milan or first spell Chelsea Mourinho. The dark cloud that has hovered over his head since his days in Madrid appear to be gone much to the relief of those closest to him. He is happy once more but also apparently humble having taken stock of what went wrong before and how much of it was his fault. Indeed former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher admitted that Mourinho had reached out to several people to get a true unfiltered opinion of himself post United.
Mourinho has had issues at his past three clubs, some self engineered but most inherited. Those problems shouldn’t exist at Spurs which should make Jose’s life better. He will be back living with his family, working closely with a Chief Executive in Daniel Levy who is as good as they get and with a squad that most would be jealous of – balanced, internationals in every spot, guaranteed goals from Harry Kane, Son and Moura and a potential solid defence if Jose can get Toby Alderwerield and Jan Vertoghen firing again.
A 3-2 debut victory over a struggling West Ham side will have highlighted Spurs defensive issues but it will have also hardly appease those fans concerned about his appointment. That said Spurs lung busting comeback win in the Champions League against Olympiakos should. That game demonstrated what Mourinho does best – in particular his game management, tactical nous and ability to motivate players as the game plays out. Trailing 2-0 at home after only 20 minutes, Mourinho had seen enough and made changes, substituting Eric Dier for Christian Eriksen and switching to a more attack focused approach. That change along with some inspired words from the touch line and help from a ball boy drove Spurs to respond by upping a gear and taking the game to their Greek opponents. Eventually Spurs would win the game 4-2 which helped them qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Mourinho’s smile at the end said it all. The old Mourinho is back, like it or not.