EPL

Tottenham welcome back 'real' Alli as Mourinho reign begins with West Ham win

By Sports Desk November 23, 2019

Among the many knocks on Jose Mourinho's often miserable stint at Manchester United was his inability or unwillingness to perform real feats of coaching, to coax improvement out of individuals who did not immediately meet his standard.

Scott McTominay was perhaps the one player who countered the claim that a manager famed for distrusting young players had indeed forgotten how to coach footballers of all ages.

Diligent, dogged and pliable, it made sense that Mourinho took to the late-blooming Scotland international - and why the pair have remained in contact since the former's inglorious exit from Old Trafford almost 12 months ago.

The rest of United's squad tended to rebel against Mourinho's methods. Paul Pogba stagnated. Anthony Martial failed to kick on. Others simply became sapped of belief, as must have been the case with the routinely chastised Luke Shaw.

Tottenham do not have the kind of funds to allow long-term assets to drift aimlessly - few clubs do - and it was notable that chairman Daniel Levy bestowed the title of head coach when offering Mourinho an unexpected return to the Premier League.

Dele Alli is not exactly a McTominay type, and yet against West Ham, on the fourth day doing a job Mourinho once said he would never take, there were signs he could become emblematic of the reinvention the Portuguese claimed he did not need to undertake.

Alli's confidence seemed completely restored at the London Stadium on Saturday after more than a single season of form and injury issues that former boss Mauricio Pochettino struggled to resolve.

Mourinho called him "potentially a fantastic player" during his introductory news conference and the scorer of 44 top-flight goals looked exactly that in a particularly encouraging first 45 minutes.

Chosen ahead of Christian Eriksen in an advanced midfield role, he twice rewarded Harry Kane runs with intelligent passes in behind the defence during the opening stages of Tottenham's eventual 3-2 victory, their first on the road in the Premier League since January 20.

One led to a rasping Kane finish that was disallowed for offside, but the hosts failed to heed the lesson as Alli continued to find space between the lines for the remainder of a one-sided opening half.

The recently outcast England international harassed and forced an error out of Angelo Ogbonna, tested the obvious nerves of Hammers goalkeeper Roberto with a pair of shots and then, in the 43rd minute, offered the sort of instinctual manoeuvre that has so enamoured supporters in the past.

His contortionist act and inventive flick when pinned on the touchline allowed Son Heung-min to spring free down the left and square for the recalled Lucas Moura, who tapped home.

Alli had earlier supplied the pass from which Son fired Spurs ahead and his work was effectively complete by the time Harry Kane headed in Serge Aurier's cross four minutes after the interval.

Mourinho made his appreciation clear following the second goal, singling out the attacking midfielder with enthusiastic acknowledgement.

Alli's influence waned in the second half, as did Tottenham's performance, and West Ham grabbed late goals either side of his 79th-minute substitution to make the final scoreline look far closer than it needed to be.

The job, however, was done. Spurs were winners, as Levy has gambled on them becoming again with a dramatic change. The 'real' Dele was back, as Mourinho had set to out accomplish. And a manager seemingly resistant to change looked like a head coach.

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