When Jose Mourinho is unhappy, he wastes little time in going after those who have angered him, irrespective of whether the source of his displeasure is his own players, a journalist, or a managerial counterpart.
The Portuguese coach was understandably in a foul mood after Tottenham Hotspur suffered defeat against Royal Antwerp in the Europa League last week. The European tie saw Mourinho rest his regular players and gave starts to some rotational players.
However, the majority of the fringe players failed to impress, resulting in the 57-year-old manager warning the underperformers that they may not be afforded similar opportunities in the future.
"You know what our best team is. I always like to think the players deserve an opportunity. We have a big squad," Mourinho is quoted as saying by Goal.
"It's also an opportunity to be grabbed with both hands. After tonight, my future choices are going to be very easy.”
Mourinho gets desired response from Spurs flops
But as Tottenham lined up against Ludogorets Razgrad on Thursday, the Spurs boss was given the perfect response by his team. Not only did his rotational players grab the second opportunity this time around, most of them even staked claims for regular starts.
While Mourinho named a relatively strong line-up which included Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, and Eric Dier, the likes of Matt Doherty, Ben Davies, Giovani Lo Celso, and Harry Winks were also handed starts.
Fortunately, most of the rotation players delivered, as Spurs recorded a 3-1 victory against Ludogorets to go top of Group J in the Europa League. Davies was a lively presence at left-back, while Winks complemented Moussa Sissoko in a midfield pivot. The duo was impressive in the middle of the park and did an excellent job of shielding the defense.
Lo Celso was also impressed in the creative number 10 role. The Argentinean scored Tottenham’s third goal, after earlier strikes from Kane and Lucas, to seal a comfortable win away from home.
Ultimately, Mourinho got the response he was hoping for. The manager heavily criticised his rotational players for failing to make the most of their chances when given starts.
Sudden competition for undroppable Spurs stars
The Portuguese admitted in his post-game press conference that, although some players in his team are undroppable, the fringe players were also beginning to compete for starting spots.
“There are players who quite clearly, by the way they perform, give no chance to others to get in their position because they are so, so, so strong in their performances,” he said, as quoted by Goal.
"People who aren't playing regularly must feel that every minute is a chance to prove [themselves], to enjoy and give their maximum."
The win puts Tottenham in pole position to qualify for the knockout round of the Europa League. With the fringe players rising to the occasion, Mourinho will definitely return to London a happy man.