Identical supervisor, comparable gamers, identical consequence. The acquainted sample performed out once more. Tottenham had a lead and Tottenham misplaced the lead and the result’s that the hole to the highest 4 is now six factors.
It was the reverse spherical of fixtures in October – Leeds unnerving Manchester Metropolis, West Ham outplaying Leicester, Aston Villa thrashing Liverpool – that created the sense that this was not going to be a standard season, Tottenham’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford even conjuring the frankly implausible thought that Spurs would possibly be capable to mount a title problem. How way back that appears now. All that is still to be determined, it seems, are the circumstances of José Mourinho’s departure, when it occurs and the way large his payoff is.
It’s placing how totally different the temper round Outdated Trafford is now to the way it was in Mourinho’s closing season, largely due to the personalities of the managers. Like a poisonous Charlie Brown, Mourinho bears with him his private cloud. By this stage in his reign, his focus appears all the time to have shifted from getting outcomes to creating positive no person blames him for the outcomes. In contrast, Solskjær’s identify actually means sunshine. No matter else could also be stated of him as a supervisor, he lifts gloom.
It’s arduous to keep away from the conclusion that he has turn into a greater man-manager than Mourinho, one thing demonstrated by the way in which he retains rehabilitating Paul Pogba after one other announcement from his agent that he desires to depart. Mourinho’s attritional low-block could have come to appear outmoded, however at the least as answerable for his decline has been the way in which he appears – lately – to battle to narrate to gamers. Gone is the shamanic determine who was so attuned in his early years to each element and each nuance that it appeared he may inform the long run, and as an alternative has risen a cranky headteacher all the time looking out for some errant pupil he can blame for the varsity’s failings.
But Solskjær’s document this season is barely worse than Mourinho’s in 2017-18: 2.03 factors per sport to Mourinho’s 2.13, 1.97 targets per sport scored to Mourinho’s 1.79, 1.10 targets per sport conceded to Mourinho’s 0.74. There could also be adequate inexperienced shoots of restoration to have some sense this can be a staff that’s starting to enhance, however earlier than in the present day the one win in opposition to a top-six aspect has been the victory over Manchester City, and most of the wins over lesser groups have been unconvincing scrambles by the odd aim. The distinction between this season and three years in the past is the sense that progress could but be made, and a willingness to provide the person in cost additional time.
There was a hazard that with two sides so devoted to taking part in on the break that it would find yourself like the stalemate between United and Chelsea earlier within the season, when each side have been so intent on letting the opposition come on to them and never taking dangers that the ball would possibly as nicely have been left on the centre-spot at kick-off as each side sat in their very own half and watched it. However it was by no means fairly that: if the opening half hour was a grind, it was largely as a result of neither aspect was adequate to evade the tactical fouling of the opposite.
However the sport was jolted into what appeared sightly unwilling life after 33 minutes, as Edinson Cavani appeared to have given United the lead, just for the referee, Chris Kavanagh, to resolve, after consulting the video display screen, that the comb of Scott McTominay’s fingers in Son Heung-min’s face as he stepped away from him within the buildup constituted a foul. Mourinho patronisingly consoled Solskjær, a reminder of the virtuosity of previous; different presents could also be deserting him, however at faux-magnanimity, Mourinho stays a grasp.
After which, probably the most surprising of happenstances – not solely a Spurs aim however one among luminous high quality. Maybe Victor Lindelöf helped by getting his ft in a tangle, however after Serge Aurier had swept the ball ahead, the interaction between Harry Kane, Lucas Moura and Son, who was left to roll the ball in, was slick and incisive. However it was additionally solely out of conserving with the toil in cul-de-sacs of the remainder of the sport.
Much more predictable was what got here subsequent. For Spurs, taking the lead is sort of a character in Treasure Island being handed the Black Spot. Their demise turns into inevitable. The sample laid out in opposition to West Ham, Lask, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Wolves, Fulham, Arsenal, Dinamo Zagreb and Newcastle was adopted once more.
As Spurs sat deeper, United started to play with fluency and creativeness. After a few first rate blocks from Hugo Lloris, the equaliser arrived 12 minutes into the second half, Fred knocking within the rebound after Cavani’s effort had been saved. Cavani, excellent all through, received the second with a diving header from Mason Greenwood’s cross. He did then head in opposition to his personal put up as Pogba flicked on a Spurs nook however the sport was to not be shifted from its future and Greenwood added a late third.
And so the Mourinho doom-spiral took one other flip nearer the conclusion everyone suspects is coming.