Nuno Espirito Santo is facing a battle to keep his job as the Tottenham Hotspur fans turned on their manager in spectacular fashion during a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United that eased the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
While the United manager saw his team respond to last week’s 5-0 home thrashing by Liverpool, it was Nuno who endured the home fans singing “We want Nuno out” after substitute Marcus Rashford scored the third for United four minutes from the end of regulation time. Nuno had been booed for his decision to substitute Lucas Moura in the 52nd minute, replacing him with Steven Bergwijn. “You don’t know what you’re doing”, chanted elements of the home support.
Spurs failed to muster a single attempt on target on the United goal. Official Premier League statistics record that Nuno’s side have failed to get an attempt on target in their last two hours and 16 minutes of football. The last was an effort by Harry Kane in the 44th minute of the defeat to West Ham on Oct 24. There also seemed to be jeers for the striker from the home fans.
There was hostility directed towards the directors’ seats as disgruntled Spurs fans left the stadium before and after the final whistle. The fans sang: “We want Levy out” although there are very few options open to the Spurs chairman Daniel Levy who sacked Jose Mourinho on April 19. Levy and the new managing director Fabio Paratici spent the large part of the summer searching for a replacement having originally passed over Nuno.
It is understood that the club are not currently minded to remove Nuno and will give him more time to turn it around. Spurs play Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa Conference League on Thursday before a trip to Goodison Park three days after that. Nuno is only the second Spurs manager of the Premier League era to lose five of his first ten league games after Christian Gross.
Later when asked about his own job, Nuno said: “I am only thinking about the next game and the next training session. There are not words that will solve the situation. “When they [the fans] don’t see the team play the way they expect they are going to boo. I believe the players are better than that and it’s up to us to change the mood.”
The Spurs manager added: “I think we are better than what we showed today … I believe we have the talent to do it. When things don’t work out the confidence is what goes away. We have to regain it by actions.”
Solskjaer acclaimed the work of his coaches for helping in putting together a tactical plan in a formation of 3-4-1-2 that worked with goalscorers Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani as a striking partnership. Solskjaer said that the pair were told on Tuesday that they would be used that way and had worked on it all week “like peas in a pod”.
Solskjaer said: “Both of them have been really good. Tuesday morning’s session by Edinson Cavani was the best I have seen by an individual since I have been here. He lead the line. He was a great example for everyone how you go about changing the mood and changing the performance.”
He added: “Its been a difficult week for the players, for the club and for the fans [after the 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool]. I have stayed away from the news but you know what is happening out there. You know you have to put a performance in. It was the worst feeling in the world and you just want the next game to come. We needed a whole week to work on this performance. It’s the last time in a while we have a long week [without any games] to work.”
Nuno accepted that the performance had not been good enough. He told Sky Sports: “We’re not on the right track. We understand the criticism – it’s part of football, when the team doesn’t perform. The fans are not happy and they have shown they are not happy. It’s up to us to take it, and to tell them that we try our best, and to tell them that we are sorry. We didn’t perform as we wanted and [we must] keep on trying. [To ask] in a humble way ask them to support us all the way.”
He added: “We lost balls, we allowed counter attacks. We were not able to break them. They were organised. We had a good chance at the beginning but not good enough … we were unable to find the lines, the combinations. the last pass was never there, the finish was never there. [It was] a bad performance. We have to work harder.”
Nuno was appointed Spurs manager on July 1 at the end of a long process which saw the club withdraw an offer to the former Roma coach Paulo Fonseca and instead return to Nuno who had originally been discounted. The former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager started the season well but has been plagued by injuries and other problems, including Harry Kane’s late return from holiday and the enforced quarantine of South American players after the October international break.