Monday Verdict: Big names failing Mourinho; Spurs in shutdown mode

Oli Fisher

This week’s Monday Verdict looks at why Jose Mourinho had every right to be angry after a less-than switched on Manchester United performance, as well as Spurs’ shortcomings and the brilliant job Roy Hodgson has done at Crystal Palace.



Since recording a first win at Chelsea in 28 years, Tottenham appear to have shut up shop for the remainder of the season thinking Champions League qualification was a done deal.

At that stage Mauricio Pochettino’s men were 8 points clear with 7 games to play but now the gap is down to 2 with 2 games left and Antonio Conte’s men are well and truly breathing down their necks.

Two wins and two defeats in their last five games, plus a draw at Brighton has seen Spurs go completely off the boil at the wrong stage of the season – and it would appear that mentally that big win at Chelsea ended their campaign on April 1 and they can’t get that ruthless streak back.

Even the two wins were far from convincing as they edged out now relegated Stoke 2-1 at the Bet365 and then beat Watford 2-0 at Wembley in a game in which the visitors missed some glaring opportunities.

Players that were on top form leading up to and during that win in west London appear to have completed switched off, while Harry Kane still doesn’t look like the same player since he rushed himself back from injury early as Mo Salah began to run away with HIS Golden Boot.

A massive chance to win their first silverware in 10 years also passed them by as they failed to turn up in the second half of an FA Cup semi-final defeat against Manchester United at a Wembley Stadium they have been able to call home all season long.

What is surprising is that Pochettino has made this Tottenham side far less ‘Spursy’ over the last few years but they seem to have reverted to type over the last few weeks.

Several factors may be playing a part in their recent struggles, including major doubts resurfacing over Pochettino’s future at the club, but perhaps that win at The Bridge gave them such a high that ever since then they have only had one way to go and that slide has been difficult to stop.

Still, with two home games to go – against Newcastle and Leicester – things are still very much in their hands and Wednesday’s clash with the Toon has now turned into one of their most important of the season.


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To say Manchester United will likely still finish second in the Premier League, reached the knockout stages of the Champions League and stand on the verge of silverware with an FA Cup final to come, some might say Jose Mourinho has been a bit on the moody side this season.

If he could be accused of being tetchy throughout his tenure at Old Trafford, on Friday night that sense of irritancy turned to straight up, unfiltered anger.

United arrived on the south coast knowing a win would all-but seal second place for them, but a desperate disappointing display means they will have to wait to secure the runners-up spot.

Pascal Gross scored the goal which sank United 1-0 to guarantee Premier League football for Brighton next season.

“It was not good enough. The players that replaced others did not perform at a good level and when individuals do that it is difficult for the team to play well. Maybe now you will not ask me why A, B and C do not play so much,” Mourinho told BT Sports after the game.

“I wouldn’t say disappointed. I know them. I thought that the possibility to start the game and give reason would give them something.

“You have the answer now when you ask ‘why always Lukaku?’. We are probably not as good as people think we are individually.”

It is not difficult to see – as much as he tried to mask it – just who those comments were aimed at. A front three of Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial failed to carve out any real clear opportunities.

Once again, the Red Devils were reduced to hitting and hoping from set pieces, plus looking occasionally threatening on the odd occasion that Jesse Lingard showed urgency in behind an otherwise out-of-place looking trident ahead of him

If this was an audition for the aforementioned players to prove that a) they deserve more minutes and b) they deserve to be considered as long term options by Mourinho, then they failed absolutely miserably.

Take Martial as a perfect case study of why Mourinho may not have been wrong after all. It would be fair to say that some Manchester United fans have been baffled by the treatment of the young Frenchman. His minutes have understandably suffered since the arrival of the £500k-a-week Alexis Sanchez, and despite reports in the press that Jose wants to keep him, Martial’s future looks incredibly uncertain.

If Martial took to the field at the AMEX Stadium looking to impress his boss and maybe even nudge Sanchez out of a starting berth, then the 90 minutes he showed on the south coast did little to suggest that.

Marcus Rashford deserves an ounce of sympathy. In the chances he has had to impress this season, he has often looked promising, and there is an element from Mourinho of trying to protect a player who has played a lot of football for someone his age prior to this season. But, like Martial, his performance was utterly bereft of any individual or collective spark.

As for Juan Mata, he was utterly anonymous, and he is surely just going through the motions in what should be his last few games at Old Trafford.

Mourinho’s comments after the game were bold, accusative and very thinly veiled, but for once he is right to be angry. His side needs four more points to get over the line and finish second, and then focus on picking up silverware in their FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Instead, the Portuguese is left to face an unrelenting media and pick up the pieces after another sluggish display against an opponent where Manchester City would have surely flexed their strength in depth. United have lost away at all three of last season’s promoted Championship sides this season – a record that is a huge indication of where the problems line.

For all the times Jose is unnecessarily grumpy, or sees the cynical side of everything, we have to give him this one. He was let down badly, and it may just be the catalyst for wholesale change that Reds fans are crying out for.

Oliver Fisher


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