Why Jose Mourinho will win on his return to Old Trafford
It may just be a two-week honeymoon period for Jose Mourinho and his new employer Tottenham Hotspur, but it goes without saying that the feel-good vibes on one side of North London have returned and that could be a stern warning for their next opponents Manchester United - Mourinho's former employer.
The Special One has overseen Tottenham's brief resurgence since his appointment as their manager and Saturday's 3-2 win over Bournemouth completed their best run of form this season. Mourinho's first week at Spurs yielded the scalp of a London rival as the Lilywhites claimed the bragging rights in a London derby against West Ham - Spurs' first away win since January. And on Tuesday night, they came from behind to beat Olympiakos in Mourinho's first home game to confirm their progress in the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League.
While slightly hyperbolic since Mourinho's tenure is only two weeks old, he has undoubtedly galvanised this Tottenham team. This is the Tottenham that appeased neutrals for the best part of five years, playing an enterprising brand of football that became the hallmark of Mauricio Pochettino's work at the North London club. But that was until the Argentine coach made a stunning claim that he would leave Spurs should they win the Champions League final against Liverpool at the end of last season. And so it proved to be, except that Pochettino and Tottenham did not win the trophy and the 47-year-old's enthusiasm had waned during the first quarter of the 2019-20 season and Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, produced one of the most ruthless Premier League sackings in recent memory.
Enter Jose Mourinho, the 56-year-old enforcer who is synonymous for being an authoritarian that exhausts players and fans after just two years of work, and a man many feared had lost his sparkle following that ill-fated 2018-19 season at Manchester United. But Mourinho can be remarkably charming as well, and that was exactly how he was when faced the cameras during his first press conference as Tottenham's new manager. He confessed to making mistakes in the past, but not that he was making an apology for any of his previous confrontations and public spats. He was now the 'Humbled One' so to speak.
Mourinho's arrival has coincided with Tottenham's best run of form. Three matches played and three wins decorated with 13 goals. It may still be early days, but some of the players look better. Spurs' needed his in-game management to wrest back momentum as evidenced in that 4-2 comeback win over Olympiakos in midweek. Mourinho made a game-changing early substitution as early as the 29th minute when he hauled off Eric Dier and replaced him with Christian Eriksen - the supplier of Tottenham's fourth goal of the night.
Dele Alli looks a rejuvenated man with two goals and one assist in the two Premier League games under Mourinho. That is as many as he managed in his 12 under Pochettino.
Serge Aurier is another player feeling the transformation effect in just 10 days of Mourinho's reign. The Ivorian cut a forlorn figure during Pochettino's time at the club despite the Argentinean being the man who bought him in the first place. Aurier was distracted and making far too many mistakes for player vested with the responsibility of being Spurs' first choice right back. Pochettino would drop him at times and play Kyle Walker-Peters, the versatile Mousa Sissoko or Davinson Sanchez.
But under Mourinho, he has so far played like a man possessed and he is repaying the Portuguese's trust already. Aurier is at the heart of Mourinho's new formation that sees him deployed as a wing back, playing high and wide - a role similar to that of Kyle Walker.
Lucas Moura is now featuring prominently for Mourinho's new-look 4-2-3-1 system operating the inside-right role with full effect. Son Heung-min is as deadly as ever and Harry Kane is still Tottenham's focal point in their dangerous looking attack.
Tottenham will travel to Old Trafford for a mouthwatering midweek encounter against Manchester United, and for Mourinho this will be a scene for retribution for those who deemed him unfit for the role at this juncture 12 months ago.
The Red Devils have since regressed to put it bluntly, and after a season of inertia and under-performance under Solskjaer - Mourinho's successor - A Tottenham victory on Wednesday night will confirm Jose Mourinho's acceptance to the Spurs' faithful and massive dagger to the hearts of United fans
Prediction: Manchester United 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur