Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford on Wednesday was anything but special. The former Manchester United boss was humbled as his Spurs side succumbed 2-1 with two goals from Marcus Rashford outweighing a first-half strike from Dele Ali.
The Portuguese manager, who joined Tottenham last month, took charge of United for 144 matches between July 2016 and December 2018 until a 3-1 hammering away to Liverpool ended his reign.
Since arriving in north London, Jose Mourinho has cut a contrasting figure to the brash egotist that first sauntered into the Premier League in 2004 after winning the European Champions League with Porto.
The Humble One, as the British press has now dubbed Mourinho in place of his former “Special One” moniker, has appeared measured and poised, assuring all who will listen that he has softened.
That being said, he would have hoped his players showed more fight at Old Trafford after being overrun in midfield and soundly swept aside.
“In the first half they started more aggressive and more intense and deserved to be in front,” Mourinho told the BBC after the toughest assignment since taking charge at Tottenham.
Rashford opened the scoring on the six-minute mark when he squeezed a driving shot past Tottenham goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga. Alli restored parity five minutes before the break after a sublime first touch allowed him to fire home a quite sumptuous strike into the far corner.
But United struck the fatal blow just four minutes after the interval through Rashford’s penalty to inflict a first defeat on Mourinho as Tottenham’s head coach.
After the match, Mourinho made a point of shaking the hand of every United player and he singled out Rashford for special praise.
“When he plays from the left he is really dangerous and I knew that and gave the players the best information about it,” Mourinho told the BBC. “His first goal is a typical Rashford goal coming from the inside. Our boys clearly knew that.”
Rashford has now been directly involved in 11 goals in his last 10 appearances for his club with nine goals and two assists. The 22 -year-old English forward’s double means United is unbeaten in its past nine home matches in all competitions and has given his beleaguered manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some breathing room.
“It’s the best game he’s had under me,” Solskjaer said of his in-form striker. “It’s like he was back on the playground or in the back garden. We want them to have fun, there’s nothing dangerous out there. Just 75,000 people wanting the best [of them].”
United is now sixth in the Premier League table with 21 points, one ahead of Tottenham in eighth. Both teams can only crane their necks to catch a glimpse of high-flying Liverpool, which battered city rivals Everton 5-2 at Anfield to remain unbeaten after 15 league matches and maintain its hold at the top.