Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino says Jose Mourinho is an inspiration despite his current frustrations at Manchester United as he prepares his side for Monday’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford.
United have had a turbulent start to the new season, with Mourinho appearing to be at odds with the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and French World Cup winner Paul Pogba.
Mourinho will be desperate to get United back on track after a 3-2 defeat to Brighton but the game is also important for Spurs as they look to improve on a generally poor away record against their biggest rivals under Pochettino.
Despite Mourinho’s travails, his opposite number at Spurs, who has two wins out of two games so far this season, still holds the utmost respect for the man who has won multiple trophies during a glittering managerial career.
Asked what he has learned from Mourinho, Pochettino said: “A lot of things. I think for every single manager that is younger than him he was the inspirational manager.
“Of course he is an unbelievable manager and of course the circumstances that happen with myself and happen with different managers is always going to be up and down. He has been inspirational — but I am younger than him.”
If Mourinho had had his way this summer, defender Toby Alderweireld could have been featuring for United against Spurs.
But despite strong reported interest, a bid was never made and the Belgian has so far stayed at Spurs, playing 90 minutes against Fulham last week.
Alderweireld’s future has been a constant source of speculation ever since he failed to agree a new deal and Pochettino did not commit to whether he will be playing at Old Trafford.
“This season is a challenge, a completely different challenge for us, because it’s only three weeks that the players arrive from the World Cup and are in training,” he said.
“Always you need six or seven weeks to start to compete in a normal season, that is why sometimes you need to be careful how they react after the effort of 90 minutes.”
The Bluebirds host Championship side Norwich on Tuesday night, looking to find some fluency after failing to score in each of their first three Premier League games.
Warnock’s chosen XI will bear little resemblance to the one which scraped together a 0-0 draw against 10-man Huddersfield on Saturday but he insisted that is no comment on performances at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Indeed, he pieced together the team before travelling north and believes it stands up well.
“I picked the team for Tuesday on Friday,” he said.
“And when I put it up on the board I thought ‘bloody hell…not bad that’. When I came to the club I’d have settled for that team in the Championship.
“It’s not bad, the squad we’ve got and we’ve done that over 18 months, really.”
Fans have advance warning over what to expect in terms of changes but Warnock insists the early season knockout fixture offers a worthy audition to break into the first XI rather than the inconvenience some top-flight bosses see it as.
“It’s a good game for us to have because I need to look at one or two things and it will be a good opportunity for me,” he said.
“Everyone will get a chance who has not played (at Huddersfield) and then we’ll fill in with one or two that have played to make the numbers.”
Coming on the back of a disastrous loss to Brighton last week, United will want to set things right – and move back to within a point of Manchester City, who dropped points this weekend.
Tottenham will have the same incentive as they look to establish their Premier League title credentials, with their poor away record against the top six coming under the scanner again ahead of the crunch clash.
Here’s a look at the talking points for the game.
SPOTLIGHT ON POGBA
Paul Pogba put the spotlight on himself after last week’s loss when he said his attitude wasn’t right. It was a commendable admission from the captain, but now he has to back it up by showing an improvement on Monday night.
One of the Frenchman’s worst moments of last season came against Spurs, in the away game when he was substituted while United were chasing the game – the beginning of the speculation that things were not well between manager and player.
Conversely, in the FA Cup semi-final tie between the two sides, Pogba had one of his better performances, rebounding from a shaky start to help boss the game in midfield and set up an equaliser.
United had plenty of luminaries in that fixture and they’ll all need to match that display, but none more so than Pogba. If he can help his side win the midfield battle, his team will likely win the game.
TOTTENHAM’S AWAY RECORD UNDER THE SCANNER AGAIN
By now it’s an infamous record – Tottenham have won just twice in 20 games against the rest of the established top six away from home under Mauricio Pochettino, a statistic that is emblematic of why Spurs have been the nearly team of the last three seasons. They can’t mount a serious title challenge without improving that record.
Tottenham did win their last big away date, beating Chelsea last season in April. A game at Old Trafford isn’t the worst fixture to have coming up, with United struggling and possibly there for the taking, and considering Spurs’ own good form to start the season.
If they can replicate the display they produced against Chelsea, they can take advantage of the sense of unease that is surrounding United and put their opponents to the sword. If not, however, Pochettino will have familiar questions to answer.
WIN MAY NOT BE ENOUGH FOR MOURINHO TO SILENCE CRITICS
United’s playing style is always under scrutiny with Mourinho at the helm, and if last season’s 1-0 home win over Spurs is any indication, Old Trafford’s patience could be tested again.
With Pogba missing through injury, United played Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic in midfield as part of a 3-4-3 formation designed to stifle Tottenham’s high-pressing, fast-breaking tactics, resulting in a drab game settled by one moment of quality from Anthony Martial.
For all the talk that’s surrounded Mourinho and his negativity on the pitch, it’s unlikely that United will be any more expansive this time around – after all, as the manager will point out, his strategy resulted in a win, so what’s the fuss?
But a repeat may not enough to settle the disquiet that has emanated from fans and observers regarding the lack of excitement about United these days – and the brickbats will be out in full force for Mourinho if this game doesn’t end in a win.
KANE HAS POINT TO PROVE
Speaking of poor records against the top six, Harry Kane hasn’t enjoyed much success against United, scoring just once in nine meetings. Having finally broken his August duck, however, the Englishman’s confidence will be high, even if there are still concerns over his fitness.
However, by and large United have historically defended Kane well. Chris Smalling seems to enjoy playing against his compatriot, and though he’s missed out in the first two games of the season, the defensive frailties United showed against Brighton might mean a rejig at the back which could see Smalling force his way into the side.
Phil Jones is another who’s played Kane well previously, so there’s every chance that the striker comes up against defenders who will have no fear in facing him.
If there is no defensive shake-up, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof will be expected to improve upon last week’s display and have a point to prove.
It all adds up to a potentially tough game for Kane, who will want to score his first Old Trafford goal.