Jose Mourinho described the clash between Son Heung-min and Hugo Lloris as “beautiful”, saying that he told his players he was delighted with the extraordinary incident.
Lloris, the Tottenham Hotspur captain, confronted Son on the pitch at half-time of their drab victory over Everton because he believed the forward had not put in the required defensive work in the final moments of the first half.
The pair had to be separated by their team-mates before making their way down the tunnel, although Mourinho said they were “hugging each other” by the time he had reached the dressing room.
Mourinho was highly critical of his players following their defeat by Sheffield United last week and he said he had asked them to be more demanding of each other.
“It is beautiful,” Mourinho said of the clash. “Probably it was a consequence of our meetings. If you want to blame somebody for that, it’s me.
“Because I was critical of my boys, because they are not – in my opinion – critical enough with themselves, with each other. I asked them to be more demanding. I asked them to demand more from others.
“It is something very important for the team to grow up. For the team to grow up you need to demand from each other and be strong personalities. I was really pleased.”
Asked what had caused the players to come together so angrily, Mourinho added: “Hugo thought that, in that minute of the game, the attacking players should do a little bit more. When I arrived at half-time I wanted to make sure players understood I was very happy with that. When I told them that, they realised there was nothing wrong.
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“A team of nice boys, the only thing they can win is the Fair Play Cup, which is something I have never won and I am not interested in winning. You need to have certain character, you need to grow up in terms of your mentality and consistency.
“I do not like a team without communication, without demanding from each other, without critical sense. What happened probably should not happen there [on the pitch]. It should happen just inside the dressing room. My teams, my winning teams, we had big fights within the team.”
An own goal by Everton defender Michael Keane brought Mourinho his 200th Premier League victory and moved Tottenham into eighth, one place and one point behind rivals Arsenal ahead of the north London derby on Sunday.
“When you coach three of the best clubs in England, you have more chances to get to that [milestone],” said the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager.
Lloris, for his part, insisted there was “no problem” between him and Son. “It just belongs to the changing room - outside you can say whatever you want,” he said. “What happened between me and Sonny is part of football sometimes. There's no problem. At the end of the game you could see we were more than happy."
The defeat marked a setback for Everton in their pursuit of European football. “We need to keep fighting,” said manager Carlo Ancelotti. “The dream is still there to go to Europe. We are still there. We have to fight until the end. Nothing is lost. We have to continue, keep our fighting spirit.”