Jose Mourinho turned on the spot, skipped back to his dugout and delivered a short, sharp punch to the air. As he continued his journey, he pumped both fists and channelled his energy towards the pitch, bowing his head and releasing whatever noise was available to him in the moment. It mattered not; the away fans would drown it out anyway.

It had been a while since they had been given much to enjoy on their travels after all. Not since January had Tottenham won a Premier League away game. Boxing Day marked their last such victory against a team still in the top flight.

But for Mourinho, only one thing was on his mind. Much as Mauricio Pochettino made a habit of sharing such instances of unbridled joy with Jesus Perez, the tentative new stepfather made an instant beeline for Joao Sacramento.

You can tell a lot about the nature of a goal through not only how a manager celebrates it, but also how his assistant and coaching team does. If they choose to acknowledge it separately, then it has likely been born of individual error or fortune. If there is a mixture of flailing arms, mouths agape and general indecision as to how to react, then it was liekly a wonder strike impossible to account for or predict. But if they seek out one another instinctively, the chances are that they have seen that pass, that run, that move, that goal before.

It is impossible to know what Mourinho worked on in the three days of preparation for this game. But his embrace with Sacramento for the opening goal suggests any training-ground work involved Harry Winks splitting the lines of defence and midfield with one pass, Dele Alli controlling it with a single touch and playing it through to Son Heung-min with another, and the South Korean beating his defender before planting a shot beyond the keeper.

A minute prior to that strike, Winks again drove an inch-perfect pass through West Ham’s heart and into Harry Kane, whose delightful flick left Alli in space. The deft pass was again intended for Son but Declan Rice was, on this occasion, in place to thwart it. Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and by the time the same move was conducted again before half-time, it was clear this was a pattern.

And that should not be underplayed. It is unclear when Tottenham approached Mourinho but it was soon obvious that he has not used the last 11 months to build a friendship with Graeme Souness, develop a taste for humble pie or intently study Tim Sherwood’s fashion sense. He has been working, watching, waiting for his chance to reestablish his relevance.

This is a small step. It was almost a misstep. Tottenham were the better side in a drab opening 20 minutes, excellent for the subsequent 40 then painfully absent for the final 30. West Ham were the perfect opponents to face in these circumstances, and Roberto the single most welcoming host since Des Lynam. “Shouldn’t you be at work?” he asked a prone Angelo Ogbonna, shortly after accidentally punching him in the face to clear a ball that no Tottenham player was challenging for.

But this was progress and, most importantly, different. Mourinho stressed before the game that he does not wish to demolish what Pochettino has built; he is merely here to build on it and offer the project fresh direction and impetus. The small changes – Paulo Gazzaniga not playing it short from goal kicks, a more direct style of play and Serge Aurier looking vaguely competent – were simply new ingredients to an existing recipe.

Dele Alli is a fine example. He has been gradually improving over the past few weeks but, on this evidence, Mourinho can help him take the final steps towards where he once was. And that, rather than drastic, wholesale alterations, will be key.

Mourinho said it himself: this squad is a “gift” for a manager who inherited a broth spoiled by too many cooks at Manchester United and only made things worse. Pochettino has handed down a group of players familiar to one another, moulded to a style and system the new coach appreciates.

Michail Antonio and Ogbonna’s late goals will give Mourinho and his staff rather a lot more to consider than he expected when Kane gave Tottenham a commanding lead in the 49th minute. But there was enough on show to suggest he could be a success.

Matt Stead

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As ever, this represents our estimation of Gareth Southgate’s thoughts. And we feel like we know him well. Numbers in brackets pertain to this ladder from October…

 

1 (2) Harry Kane
Twelve goals and five assists in eight qualifying games. His goal against Kosovo saw him become the first England player to score in every game of a qualifying campaign and it also took him back to the top of this ladder, mostly because he has never grabbed somebody by the throat in a canteen. Or at least he has never been caught grabbing somebody by the throat in a canteen.

 

2 (1) Raheem Sterling
Oh you daft bugger. There is no defending that. He is still England’s second-best source of goals and best source of running really fast and scaring the sh*t out of full-backs, mind.

 

3 (5) Harry Maguire
The only player to feature in all 720 minutes of European qualifying. And yet he still looks about half a second from dropping a bo**ock and a full second slower than most strikers he faces.

 

4 (4) Jordan Pickford
His place is safer than his hands.

 

5 (6) Marcus Rashford
Three goals in his last three England games as part of a really encouraging return to form. We would be astonished if Rashford is not in every England squad for which he is fit until the end of the next decade at least…

 

6 (3) Jordan Henderson
Two victories in his absence have damaged his cause a little, but it still feels like Henderson + 2 in that central midfield.

 

7 (7) Trent Alexander-Arnold
Remarkably, that’s the first time he has started back-to-back England games. Even more remarkably, ‘he’s yet to produce a performance for his country which doesn’t look like this one did – distracted, inaccurate, lacking in the locked-in intensity which seems as standard at Liverpool’ (and I absolutely agree with Seb Stafford-Bloor).

 

8 (10) Ben Chilwell
Perhaps those three assists against Montenegro – and solid defensive performance against Kosovo – will put an end to Gareth Southgate’s lingering and needless flirtation with Danny Rose. Chilwell is and should remain England’s first-choice left-back.

 

9 (18) Harry Winks
Six England caps, six England wins. And a goal and a man-of-the-match performance against Kosovo. It might well be Henderson, Winks + 1 with Declan Rice hopefully sidelined until he learns some of the basics of defensive midfield play.

 

10 (13) John Stones
‘Needs to play football. Absolutely needs to play football,’ is what I wrote last month. Now back in the Manchester City side and an England recall duly followed. 

 

11 (16) Nick Pope
Confirmation that he is England’s No. 2. And a clean sheet is lovely.

 

12 (17) Joe Gomez
What has become very clear is that Southgate has picked his four centre-halves and Gomez is on that list despite not playing a great deal of Premier League football. Luckily for him, Liverpool have an awful lot of games coming up. He might still be the big man.

 

13 (8) Jadon Sancho
His form has dipped for Borussia Dortmund
and he failed to pad his stats against Montenegro; just one assist from 90 minutes on the wing is not a compelling return from a 7-0 victory. Right now, he has slipped some way behind Rashford.

 

14 (15) Tyrone Mings
And there’s centre-half No. 4, who has (slightly awkwardly) claimed another cap and another clean sheet. He is literally the big man.

 

15 (9) Ross Barkley
It’s telling that he has played more minutes in this qualifying campaign than any other midfielder bar Henderson and yet almost nobody thinks he should start for England. Will he eventually be ejected like a stockier Ryan Bertrand? The initials are a clue.

 

16 (11) Declan Rice
As I wrote last month: ‘He is only 20, so there are caveats, but right now he looks far from good enough to anchor that England midfield. Still, we persuaded him not to be Irish anymore, so his squad place is probably safe for the foreseeable.’ We wanted him to be so much better than Eric Dier; he isn’t.

 

17 (12) Mason Mount
He has played a part in England’s last six games so he is clearly integrated into this England squad. Unfortunately for him, he has started twice and struggled twice. Fortunately, he can do this from the bench…

 

18 (14) Kieran Trippier
Called up but then left on the bench. It could be worse; he could be Kyle Walker.

 

19 (20) Tammy Abraham
His first England goal and confirmation – were it needed – that he is Southgate’s first-choice back-up to Kane.

 

20 (22) Fabian Delph
Even grown men need a comfort blanket. Let it go, people, let it go…

 

21 (19) Danny Rose
Clinging onto a place in the squad but for how long? Until Luke Shaw gets and stays fit, you should think. Right now, Rose is holding off Aaron Cresswell and Matt Targett in the battle to be the left-sided fireguard with the thinner chocolate coating.

 

22 (32) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Back-to-back England starts for the first time since March 2018, when he was set to start in England’s World Cup midfield before injury struck. “We’ve a huge belief in him,” said Southgate. “Whether it’s as a midfield player – where he’s excellent with or without the ball, provides a goalscoring threat, works hard for the team and presses well – or a wide player or a forward player, we’ve got huge belief in him.” And that versatility might well be what keeps in this 23 ahead of more vaunted competition.

 

23 (23) Tom Heaton
The old man completes the 23. For now.

 

24 (21) Callum Hudson-Odoi
Reclaimed and then lost his Chelsea place, while his 59 wasteful, hesitant minutes against Kosovo suggested that he might be better getting some more England experience with the Under-21s this season while he searches for his form.

 

25 (24) Callum Wilson
Nobody takes three strikers for a one-striker system. Especially when the third striker on the list has stopped scoring.

 

26 (26) James Maddison
Most chances created by Englishmen this season:
Trent Alexander-Arnold (42)
Jack Grealish (25)
James Maddison (24)
Mason Mount (23)
Raheem Sterling (22)

Sorry James, but we don’t think Gareth likes the cut of your gib. Or the gib of…

 

27 (35) Jack Grealish
Though at least Southgate hinted that Grealish could be the next cab off the attacking midfielder rank. That’s progress.

 

28 (25) Kyle Walker
Sip sliding away. Slip-sliding a-way.

 

29 (31) Fikayo Tomori
They definitely didn’t bring him on for a few minutes to claim him from Nigeria (oh yes they did). But most importantly for this ladder, he was in the squad ahead of the falling Michael Keane.

 

30 (30) Dean Henderson
England’s…No. 4. England’s, England’s No. 4.

 

31 (29) Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Clearly, Southgate is not a fan of a 90s-style full-back.

 

32 (34) Dele Alli
Back in the Tottenham side at least. Shame it’s a really poor Tottenham side.

 

33 (27) Michael Keane
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

34 (28) Jesse Lingard
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

35 (33) Eric Dier
We may never see him in an England shirt again.

 

36 (40) Phil Foden
We will surely see him in a (senior) England shirt soon, but first Pep Guardiola needs to give him more than Carabao Cup football.

 

37 (NE) Aaron Ramsdale
The Bournemouth goalkeeper is making a compelling case for a long-term battle with Henderson.

 

38 (36) Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Love the player, hate the injury.

 

39 (37) Luke Shaw
Love the player, hate the injury. And the body type.

 

40 (42) Dwight McNeil

 

41 (41) Rob Holding
42 (38) Angus Gunn
43 (39) Ryan Sessegnon
44 (43) Max Aarons
45 (NE) John Lundstram
46 (NE) Harvey Barnes
47 (44) Reiss Nelson
48 (45) James Tarkowski
49 (47) James Ward-Prowse
50 (50) Phil Neville

 

Sarah Winterburn

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Gary Neville has questioned Manchester United’s interest in West Ham midfielder Declan Rice.

Rice emerged as a potential target for United over a summer which saw them pursue young, hungry British players.

Some (silly people) have even mooted a possible £90m bid in January, but Neville does not feel United “need another player” like Rice.

“It’s going to cost a fortune,” he told Sky Sports.

“I mean, you talk about £80m, £90m to get him out of West Ham. We’ve seen a bid for Zaha go to Everton this year for £70m. To get players out of the likes of West Ham now, Crystal Palace, it is not going to be easy.

“Would I say yes now at £80m, £90m? I’m not feeling that personally at this moment in time, but am I seeing a really good player who could potentially develop into something fantastic for the next ten years? Yes, I really do think that.

“But do United need another player? They’ve already got Matic, they’ve already got McTominay doing a similar role to what I see Rice doing.”

 

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Gary Neville doesn’t think Declan Rice should be able to play for England after representing the Republic of Ireland at senior level.

The 20-year-old appeared for the Republic of Ireland’s youth teams and won three senior caps, but FIFA ratified his switch in March to England as those three appearances came in friendlies.

Neville told The Sun: “I’ve heard he’s a really good lad, I just think that ultimately a player should not be allowed to play for his country’s senior team and then switch.

“It doesn’t feel right to me. It’s a really strange thing to see and ultimately FIFA and UEFA need to stop it.

“There have been players who’ve asked for interviews and meetings with the national team manager. Why?

“Why is that influencing your decision, do you want some level of guarantee about play?

“Country is about an emotion, it’s about a feeling and that might be England, it might be Ireland, it might be Wales, whatever country you play for I’ve no problem with the process of players picking who they want to play for.

“I’ve issue with this sort of beauty parade to determine which country they play for. It should be taken out of the players’ hands.”

 

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