Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho showed once again, after his side let the lead slip to draw 2-2 with Newcastle this weekend, that he isn’t shy of digging into his players.
Spurs were 2-1 up at half-time thanks to a quickfire Harry Kane brace but ultimately surrendered their lead in 85th minute when Joe Willock, on loan from Arsenal, salvaged a point for Steve Bruce’s struggling side.
According to Opta, Tottenham have thrown away half-time leads in a league-high six matches in 2020-21 and have dropped 11 points this season due to goals conceded in the final 10 minutes.
After the game, Mourinho was reminded that his teams were famous for holding on to leads in the past and told the BBC: “Same coach, different players.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Mourinho has openly pinned personal blame on his own players (and/or staff members) in front of a large global audience, so it seemed the right time to run down some of his greatest hits.
This article was first published on Sept. 3, 2020 and has been updated.
With Tottenham faltering in a 1-1 draw with Burnley in March 2020, new boss Mourinho decided to delve into his big bag of scapegoats and find a new name on which to pin the blame.
This time, €62m record signing Tanguy Ndombele was the fall guy locked in Mourinho’s scathing cross-hairs, with the Spurs boss openly lambasting the midfielder’s lack of commitment during his postmatch interview.
Ndombele was hauled off at half-time, with Mourinho questioning how many more chances the Frenchman would be given to impress after seeing his form bottom out in recent weeks.
“He’s a player with a great talent, and he has to know he has to do much better. Many times our midfield players were hiding. I cannot keep giving him opportunities to play because the team is more important than the players.”
Luke Shaw bore the brunt of Mourinho’s ire for the majority of his tenure at Manchester United, with the Portuguese regularly tearing strips off his left-back.
Things famously came to a bit of a head when Mourinho took it upon himself to run up and down the touchline with Shaw — who had just recently returned from injury — during a game against Everton in 2017, yelling basic positional instructions at his defender and then taking credit for his performance after the game.
“He [Shaw] was in front of me and I was making every decision for him. He has to change his football brain. We need his fantastic physical and technical qualities, but he cannot continue to play with my brain.”
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial
After United suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat against Brighton at the tail end of the 2017-18 season, Mourinho decided the fault lay at the feet of the two strikers he selected to lead the line.
With Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez unavailable, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial stepped into the breach — though they probably wished they hadn’t come the end of the game, after struggling to make any impact between them.
“It was not good enough. The players who replaced others did not perform at a good level and, when individuals do that, it is difficult for the team to play well.
“Maybe now you will not ask me why A, B and C do not play so much. People always ask: ‘Why always Lukaku?’ Well, now they know why always Lukaku.”
Despite his obvious talent, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was a fairly peripheral figure at United under Mourinho, with the latter accusing the former of going missing during games.
After dropping the Armenian forward from the matchday squad for two consecutive games in late 2017, Mourinho gave his explanation in a news conference.
“Mkhi started the season very well and after that step by step he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goal scoring and assists, high pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a No. 10, were all decreasing step by step. That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance.”
Even the erstwhile Real Madrid captain, Sergio Ramos, wasn’t immune from Mourinho’s wrath during his rocky stint in charge at the Bernabeu.
In the wake of a 1-1 draw against Manchester United in the Champions League round of 16 in February 2013, Mourinho directly singled out Ramos as the man at fault for Danny Welbeck‘s opening goal after letting his man slip free from a corner.
“If you see it on the television, you can see what happened. We train, we organise ourselves, we give each player a job, we watch videos of the opponent to know their strong points at dead balls. But when you lose your individual battle, organisation does not matter. They scored in their first attack, and the game changed.”
Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas
In one of the most acidic beratings of his career, Mourinho mercilessly gouged out most of his big-named Chelsea players after overseeing a truly wretched start to the 2015-16 season.
Having lifted the Premier League title as champions only months beforehand, the Blues were down, flailing from defeat to defeat and mired in the lower part of the table. Indeed, another “shock” defeat against Leicester City saw Mourinho launch into an angry rebuke of his so-called “superstars.”
The Portuguese began by claiming he was being “betrayed” by his players before aiming a barrage of thinly veiled slights in their direction.
“They have to look to Sunderland and Watford and say, ‘hey, we are at the same level now. I am not the superstar, I am not the player of the season, I am not the world champion, I am not the Premier League champion. At this moment, I am at your level.'”
Names were not explicitly used, but it’s fairly simple to ascertain exactly who was in the firing line, given Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s player of the season and that Cesc Fabregas and Pedro were the only two world champions in the squad. Mourinho was sacked two days later.
It’s not just his players who run the risk of a Mourinho tongue-lashing, with the poor ball boys at Old Trafford finding out the hard way that they too were not immune.
With Manchester United’s home form stuttering in early 2018, Mourinho reportedly decided it was the speed at which his ball boys were returning balls that was the key reason for his side’s malaise. Mourinho axed ball boys who were too slow at returning the ball to the pitch after a 2-0 win over Hull in the EFL Cup semifinals in January 2017. He drafted in youngsters from United’s under-16s for a 1-1 draw with Liverpool after that.
This wasn’t the first time that Mourinho has taken umbrage with ball boys either, with the Portuguese marching down the touchline to reprimand a kid while his Chelsea side trailed against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in 2014.
“I told him [the ball boy] not to do that because he runs the risk of one of my players to punch him or to lose his temper. Don’t do that [deliberately slow things down] because you are risking an incident. But somebody told him to do that.”
Mourinho couldn’t even take full responsibility for the dramatic shaven head he suddenly appeared with earlier this year, instead blaming his barber for continuing to cut his hair shorter and shorter after he fell asleep in the chair at the salon.
“The reason behind the haircut is that the barber was bad, and he did a bad job. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was so bad that I said to him ‘bring the [number one grade razor].’ Hopefully, it will grow back again.”
We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he might — might — have been joking.