Tottenham and Manchester United looked to be going in opposite directions when Jose Mourinho oversaw a 6-1 thrashing at Old Trafford in October.

Mourinho looked to have built a robust, physical side capable of playing aggressive attacking football as they ripped United apart that day.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked shell-shocked that afternoon. He didn’t bear the look of a man who would be 11 points clear of Spurs the next time he met them.

Tottenham’s early-season form has long since faded. Mourinho is in a familiar routine – calling out his players to deflect criticism from his dated tactics amid fan discontent.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
(Carl Recine – Pool/Getty Images)

There isn’t the feeling he’s building anything long-term at Spurs and his style of football isn’t one the fans approve of.

By contrast, Solskjaer is working hard at a plan that – if realised – would make United a flexible, likable team.

There have been low points this season – but Solskjaer hasn’t turned on his players at any point or lost the dressing room.

 

Mourinho has lost all that early season momentum and is probably fortunate fans haven’t been in stadiums all season to voice their discontent at various times this term.

Manchester United v Sevilla FC  - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
(Clive Mason/Getty Images)

The journey hasn’t been straightforward with Solskjaer, but Mourinho lurches between more intense highs and lows because of how he reacts to setbacks.

He hasn’t even delivered a trophy to Spurs yet and is already looking dangerously close to his end-game stage; burning bridges left, right and centre to preserve his own status and reputation.

Mourinho could yet win the EFL Cup this month. He won that and the Europa League with United but more is needed to justify all the aggravation and drama the Portuguese brings to a club.

United may well be out for revenge on Sunday, but the fact is even a defeat would leave them eight points clear of Spurs and hardly impact how nailed on they are for Champions League qualification.

Spurs are still very much sweating on their top four finish and that’s due to the contrasting ways Mourinho and Solskjaer have managed their clubs since the 6-1.

Mourinho, the arch pragmatist and most ruthless manager in the division, has blown a position of strength over his former employer. That will sting him more than even a United win on Sunday would.

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