LONDON: A season that provided the flickers of a title challenge is now turning into the worst of Jose Mourinho’s managerial career.
Of all the managers to inflict Tottenham Hotspur’s 10th loss of the Premier League season, it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who replaced Mourinho at Manchester United.
Maybe that explains why Mourinho was so irritated with Solskjaer after a 3-1 home loss to United saw Tottenham fall six points from fourth placed West Ham United.
The post-match focus at Tottenham was less on Edinson Cavani’s diving header that put second-place United 2-1 in front and more on the circumstances that denied the forward the game’s opening goal.
Cavani had slotted through Hugo Lloris legs after the ball was rolled into his path by Paul Pogba. But then the goal was ruled out after a lengthy VAR review penalised Scott McTominay for a push on Son Heung-min who went tumbling to the ground.
“The game has gone ... if that’s a clear and obvious error,” Solskjaer said. “We shouldn’t be conned but I have to say, if my son stays down like this for three minutes ... and he needs his 10 mates to help him up, he wont get any food.”
Mourinho bristled at Solskjaer’s criticism of Son, who did go on to break the deadlock in the 40th minute.
“Sonny is very lucky that his father is a better person than Ole because I think a father you always have to feed their kids, it doesn’t matter what they do,” Mourinho said. “If you steal to feed your kids, you steal. I am very, very disappointed. Like we say in Portuguese, Bread is bread, cheese is cheese. I told Ole what I think about his comments.”
After discovering what Solskjaer had said in a TV interview and quickly challenging him on it, Mourinho was disappointed not to be asked for his reaction in the news conference.
“It’s really sad that you don’t ask me about it,” Mourinho said. “It’s really sad you don’t have the moral honesty to treat me the way you treat others.”
Never before in a career that has seen Mourinho win domestic titles with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid has the Portuguese lost as many as 10 league matches in a season.
While David Moyes — another former United manager — could be leading West Ham into the Champions League for the first time, Mourinho is set to miss out at a second attempt at qualification with the 2019 beaten finalists.
Tottenham have now lost 18 points from winning positions this season.
It’s a compliment to me in the way we start matches, the way we are organised. Then what happens during matches to lose points from winning positions is one of the situations I am not comfortable with talking to the media anymore,” Mourinho said.
You look to the table and you see the distance to the top four. You know it’s difficult but it’s mathematically possible.”
Son put Tottenham ahead in the 40th minute as the South Korean slotted home from close range after Harry Kane and Lucas Moura carved open the United defence.
United’s comeback began in the 57th when Fred teed up Cavani for a shot that was parried by Hugo Lloris and the Brazilian followed up with his first Premier League goal since 2018.
Having denied Bruno Fernandes, Lloris was beaten again in the 79th when the Portugal midfielder’s nutmeg helped to set up Mason Greenwood for a cross that Cavani got on the end of with a header.
And Greenwood put further gloss on the win in the sixth minute of stoppage time by scoring after Pogba and Cavani combined to set up the English forward for a shot that Lloris got a touch to but couldn’t keep out.
Top reaction. We played some great stuff in the second half. We felt the injustice [of the disallowed goal] and we showed good character to come back. We can’t let those decisions ruin this good season for us,” Solskjaer said.
Mourinho had enjoyed a 6-1 win at United in October and Tottenham had been top of the standings in December. But Tottenham have fallen to seventh place, while Solskjaer is still on course to deliver the team’s highest finish since being runners-up three years ago under Mourinho.
The Premier League trophy seems out of reach for United with Manchester City 11 points ahead. While United are still in contention for the Europa League, Mourinho has a League Cup final meeting with Manchester City in two weeks.
At the other end of the table, Sheffield United could be relegated as early as next weekend after the Blades were battered 3-0 at home by Arsenal.
Alexandre Lacazette scored twice either side of Gabriel Martinelli’s first goal in an injury-ravaged 15 months.
Victory is too little, too late for the ninth-placed Gunners chances of a top-four finish as they are still 10 points behind West Ham.
Arsenal’s season now hinges on success in the Europa League and they suffered an injury blow ahead of Thursday’s quarter-final, second leg against Slavia Prague as Bukayo Saka limped off with a thigh injury.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2021