Jose Mourinho returns to the Old Trafford dugout on Wednesday almost a year after his last appearance, for a 4-1 win over Fulham on 8 December 2018 that proved to be his last victory as Manchester United manager.
Mourinho travels north with a Tottenham side re-energised since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino on 19 November, with three wins from three games, which has helped take them sixth in the Premier League.
England midfielder Dele Alli, in particular, appears to have been transformed by Mourinho’s arrival.
In contrast, his old club are at a low ebb. When he walks into the visiting dressing room he was responsible for reducing in size during his time at the club, Mourinho will be preparing to meet a United side that are 10th in the table having won just four league matches this season and heading for their worst league finish since 1990.
So, who has benefited most from Mourinho’s United exit? And what should Spurs fans be wary of if they look back at the Portuguese’s time at Old Trafford?
Mourinho has stressed repeatedly nothing happening at Spurs at the moment is to do with him.
Few think he really means that. In any case, the noise that accompanies Mourinho assures he is centre of attention, even when it is not intended.
Praising a ball boy for helping Tottenham win their Champions League match against Olympiakos on 26 November, then inviting the lad into the home dressing room for Saturday’s victory against Bournemouth, became about Mourinho. Alli’s startling upturn in form is about Mourinho.
Sources at Tottenham say Mourinho has changed very little thus far. He occasionally stays in the overnight accommodation at Spurs’ training ground but that will not become a parody of itself as the Portuguese’s two-and-a-half-year residence at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester did.
However, tweaks have taken place.
Mourinho does not favour the high press Pochettino liked, so the training intensity will not be the same. Instead, work will be done on shape, both in and out of possession.
It is wrong to describe Mourinho as a defensive coach – but he is an organised one. As United experienced following Mourinho’s dismissal, the chances are Tottenham are benefiting now from is the introduction of a new voice, new methods and a fresh start.
Mourinho could not have done more than win his first three competitive games. Comfortable triumphs over West Ham and Bournemouth, plus a thriller against Olympiakos.
Spin back to the start of his United reign. Comfortable Premier League wins against Bournemouth and Southampton, followed by a last-minute Marcus Rashford winner at Hull.
It was game four that did not go to plan.
A home defeat by Manchester City was accompanied by a notable selection move from Mourinho. He substituted Henrikh Mkhitaryan at half-time. Mourinho, indirectly, called it “a bad performance”.
Mkhitaryan did not start another league game for nearly three months. After he left United, the Armenian said trust with his manager had been broken.