Heung-min Son sorrow shows how quickly Tottenham are unravelling under Jose Mourinho

Dan Kilpatrick
·3-min read
 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

Judging by Heung-min Son's post-match interview to Tottenham's in-house media team, the mood inside Jose Mourinho's dressing room is increasingly despairing.

Usually a beaming ball of positivity, Son looked broken when asked to assess Sunday’s 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United and his misery felt as significant as Hugo Lloris' controlled fury after last month's 3-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb, which the Frenchman labelled "a disgrace".

Mourinho's previous jobs have tended to unravel in the same series of stages and after anger and despair, the next step is often apathy.

The manager is still fighting to spark a turnaround, which could come through victory in the Carabao Cup Final in a fortnight, but if social media is anything to go by many Spurs fans have already reached an alarming state of numbness, as the club's season descends into a succession of lost leads and shadowy Mourinho remarks.

Mourinho's predecessor, Mauricio Pochettino, worked hard to convince Tottenham's hierarchy to pay less attention to social media noise and the question of whether online agitation constitutes real pressure has never felt more relevant to the club, while supporters remain locked out of the ground.

Like every top club, Spurs monitor social media closely but Twitter does not shake a stadium to its foundations, while Instagram has never camped outside a training ground demanding answers.

The vast majority of supporters do not use social media to express their views on the club, so online pressure is abstract, arguably not real pressure at all, and easily tuned out at the top.

One consequence of an empty stadium is therefore an odd state of drift at Spurs at present, a sense that it is difficult to gauge the true mood towards the manager and players from match-going supporters.

A poorer-than-expected uptake in season-ticket renewals, which open on Monday, would count as real pressure with real-life financial consequences, potentially destabilising Mourinho's position, but the majority of fans renew regardless and there are other factors to consider, like the financial impact of the pandemic.

Sunday’s match followed a grimly predictable pattern, with Spurs leading at half-time through Son's well-worked goal before an inevitable retreat in the second half.

Heung-min Son gave an emotional interview after Tottenham’s loss on SundayTottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
Heung-min Son gave an emotional interview after Tottenham’s loss on SundayTottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Goals from Fred, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood earned a deserved win for United and left Spurs six points from fourth place, with Mourinho's under increasing pressure.

The Portuguese afterwards employed a classic diversionary tactic of taking aim at his opposite number Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the media, accusing journalists of lacking the "moral honesty" to treat him the same way as other managers and condemning the United boss for claiming Son had tried to "con" his players.

He also cryptically suggested he could not be honest himself, insisting: "I can’t say what I think. You know that. You know that."

The manager pointedly declined criticising his players after his scathing comments in the wake of the 2-2 draw with Newcastle last weekend went down poorly in the dressing room.

Clearly, Mourinho is facing a battle to both win over sections of the fanbase and lift the mood within his squad, with Friday's visit to Everton another match against a direct top-six rival.

Given the unusual situation, it seems likely that it will be the morale of the players, rather than the agitations of supporters online, that will ultimately count for most in terms of Mourinho's long-term future at the club.

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