After eye-catching performances against Austrian minnows Wolfsberger in the Europa League round of 32, the England midfielder was selected for only his second top-flight start of the season at Craven Cottage and first in the League since opening weekend.
Dele repaid that sudden show of faith with a decisive intervention, connecting with Heung-min Son’s low first-half cross to help notch Tottenham’s winner that was later ruled as a Tosin Adarabioyo own goal.
“He deserves [it],” Mourinho said of that start for Dele, who was denied a reunion with former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain during the January transfer window.
“[It] was not a gift, [it] was a consequence of his work since he came back to the team. Work and working with the team 100 per cent and becoming fully fit and ready to play.
“He was giving us important things. He did very well in the Europa League. He did very well every minute on pitch, against West Ham, against Burnley, he was deserving.
“In this moment we need the squad with so many matches coming so fast. Of course we need it. We cannot change the structure of team. We can change two or three players which today we did with Dele, Ben [Davies] and Matt [Doherty].
“I am happy with what they gave to the team. For Dele it was important to have a feeling of a Premier League start.”
The win at Fulham - which lifted Tottenham up to eighth and now five points adrift of the top four after Chelsea’s subsequent win over Liverpool - was also notable for being the first time that the front four of Dele, Harry Kane, Son and Gareth Bale started a match together.
Explaining the decision to unleash that exciting quartet for a second League victory in a row, Mourinho reiterated that he needs to utilise his full squad during a gruelling month that will see Spurs play six fixtures before many players head off for as many as three additional matches on international duty.
“I like them all, and [Carlos] Vinicius and [Steven] Bergwijn were not even on the bench,” he said. “We have this group of eight players for these attacking positions and I like them all so it depends on the moment, it depends on the work, it depends on the match plan and the position, the accumulation of matches.
“The previous two matches it was Lucas [Moura] that was starting and he needs a rest. We could feel him coming in, in the last 20 minutes could give elevation to the team.
“The squad is working really well, it is a normal situation to give players time, we had guys on the bench, we have a good squad and I have to use it because it is very hard.”