Spurs vs Man United: Key Jose Mourinho decision proves fatal

Tottenham coach Jose Mourinho

Tottenham correspondent Jack Pitt-Brooke has claimed that Jose Mourinho's use of substitutions caused the side to lose control of the game during their 3-1 defeat to Manchester United on Sunday.

What did Pitt-Brooke say?

Having taken a first half lead thanks to Son Heung-min, Spurs were pegged back in the 57th minute when Fred tapped home from close-range.

Mourinho responded to this by bringing on Moussa Sissoko to replace Giovani Lo Celso. United went on to score two further goals to wrap up a comprehensive victory.

Asked about the substitution in The Athletic's discussion thread afterwards, Pitt-Brooke identified this change as the point where things started to go wrong for Spurs.

He wrote: "Spurs were doing well in midfield end of the first half but then totally lost control with those changes."

How did Sissoko compare to Lo Celso?

To put in bluntly - not very well.

In his hour on the pitch, Lo Celso had 52 touches, made one key pass and had an 82.5% pass success rate, according to WhoScored.

By contrast, Sissoko only managed 14 touches in the final half hour, failed to deliver a key pass, and his pass success rate was down at 70%.

It is safe to say that he did not have the effect on the game that Mourinho would have wanted.

Why did Mourinho make the change?

It seems that Mourinho may have wanted to tighten up the midfield from a defensive point of view, seemingly happy to settle for a point from the game.

Sissoko was regularly used alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg back in October and November, when Tottenham went through those months unbeaten in the league. He offered protection to the back four, as Spurs kept consecutive clean sheets against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

As per WhoScored, he has averaged 1 interception per game, whilst Lo Celso has managed just 0.4 per match, signalling that Mourinho may have hoped that Sissoko would be more adept at snuffing out United's attacks than Lo Celso in the closing stages of the game.

Unfortunately for Spurs, that's not how things played out.

Should Mourinho change his approach?

Without a doubt. The current approach of trying to hang onto leads for dear life simply isn't working.

In Tottenham's third game of the campaign, they conceded a late equaliser against Newcastle. This has become a common trend as the season has developed.

The side have thrown away eight leads in the league in 2020/21, either going onto draw or lose those games. It has been a similar story in most of those matches. Go ahead early, then invite pressure and eventually concede. It has become a groundhog day scenario.

Yet Mourinho does not seem to be learning. With the game delicately poised at 1-1 on Sunday, and his team needing to win to close the gap to fourth-placed West Ham, he made a defensive substitution.

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In which season did United wear this kit?

Sissoko may have done a decent containing job at the back end of 2020, but he offers very little going forwards. He has not provided a goal contribution this term in the top-flight, and has averaged just 0.2 key passes per game in the Premier League.

His introduction gave Spurs' gameplan away. Mourinho was not going to urge his team forwards, he was happy for them to sit back and soak up the pressure. United did not need a second invitation to push on, and they took full advantage of the Portuguese coach's conservative setup.

Mourinho has to start focusing on attacking more. Right now, he is doing the same things week after week, and getting the same results. And they aren't positive ones.

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