Jose Mourinho enjoyed a winning start as Tottenham manager with a 3-2 London derby triumph over West Ham at London Stadium.
First-half goals from Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura and a third from Harry Kane four minutes after the break gave Tottenham their first Premier League away win since 20 January.
It was about as comfortable as Mourinho could have hoped for after a tumultuous week, in which he replaced Mauricio Pochettino, who was sacked by Daniel Levy less than six months after guiding the club to the first Champions League final in their history.
The result piles pressure on West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini, whose side have now collected two points from their last seven games.
Under-fire keeper Roberto made an error for Son’s opener and the hosts were booed off at half-time.
Late goals from substitute Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna gave the final scoreline a flattering look, but the result made a mockery of an ill-advised post from West Ham’s social media team following Mourinho’s appointment, highlighting previous difficulties the 56-year-old has endured at London Stadium.
A comfortable start for Mourinho
In the build-up to the game, Mourinho indicated there would be no massive changes to a side that, for the first five years of Pochettino’s reign, have been used to challenging for honours, even if they have never actually won any.
Although Mourinho’s first in-match conversation with Son was to remind the South Korean of players behind him who needed marking, evidently, his strength is going forward.
Son’s shot for Tottenham’s opener was fierce enough. But the ball was close enough to Roberto as it flashed past the West Ham keeper for him to make a more passable attempt to keep it out.
It was raw pace that allowed Son to stride forward into open space and cross for Moura to covert the visitors’ second.
Mourinho greeted the opener with a celebratory punch towards the ground. His reaction to the second was far more businesslike, screaming at his players, then shouting at Toby Alderweireld when he was ignored, to deliver an instruction to do with team shape.
Three hundred and forty two days after his last match as a manager – and another derby of sorts – this was about as far removed from Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat at Liverpool as it was possible to get.
Kane’s 11th Spurs goal of the season came a minute after Moura had fluffed a chance to finish off a length-of-the-field break.
There were no more goals but plenty of instructions from Mourinho, who, as he strolled calmly towards the bench at the final whistle, will know there are much harder days than this to come.
The Eriksen conundrum
Mourinho’s first team selection was followed by his first warning, to midfielder Christian Eriksen, who he left on the bench.
Uncertainty over Eriksen’s future has been one of the dark clouds hanging over Tottenham since the Champions League final. Out of contract next summer and out of sorts on the pitch, Mourinho dismissed a pre-match question about continuity being the reason for the Dane’s absence by stating that he needed to know “what is in his mind and his heart”.
Mourinho has never been one for accepting passengers on his managerial journey and evidently, he is not about to start now.
Eriksen is not on his own in having an uncertain future.
Central defenders Alderweireld, who gave an assured performance here, and Jan Vertonghen are out of contract at the end of the season. Danny Rose’s deal runs to 2021 but the England man has already said the chances of him signing an extension are zero.
Yet Eriksen feels like the key. So influential in Tottenham’s success down the years, it does not seem to be a coincidence that his club’s form has collapsed at the same time as his.
His introduction for Dele Alli 13 minutes from time underlines Eriksen has not been excluded from Mourinho’s plans. But how the new Spurs boss deals with that situation may prove pivotal in whether Tottenham clamber back into the fight for a Champions League place or linger in mid-table for the rest of the campaign.
If this day was to be all about Mourinho, West Ham fans used it as an excuse to turn on their own.
Goalkeeper Roberto was in the firing line. From the moment he came for a punch and missed it, home fans baited the former Malaga keeper repeatedly.
Ironic cheers accompanied the simplest of kicks and catches. Confidence in the Spaniard, who has conceded three times in each of his last three games, is at rock bottom.
The ire goes beyond that. Carlos Sanchez’ introduction for Issa Diop – a move designed to give Declan Rice some time in central defence given a fifth yellow card means Diop is banned for next weekend’s trip to Chelsea – was greeted by loud boos.
The word from West Ham following their hammering at Burnley a fortnight ago was that Pellegrini would be given more time. After this, there will be fresh doubt about that.
Events of the last week prove no manager is safe from a run of bad results.
More to follow.