Richard Buxton: Mourinho shows old feisty self in New Year
United boss discards the self-pitying and returns to his snarly 'Special One' roots
There was only so long that Jose Mourinho could hide his true colours.
Serial winners do not retreat into the continued self-pitying that the Manchester United manager had exercised over the previous weeks about his side's perceived injustices.
A 2-0 win over Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time) not only ended a four-game winless run, but also brought the "Special One", as he was once best known as, back into focus.
Fixating on a long-standing feud with Pep Guardiola was always going to have a limited shelf life.
Whether or not the Portuguese coach regularly laments the Red Devils' have-nots complex, Manchester City will continue to run away with the English Premier League title, regardless.
Life has to exist beyond the current double-digit deficit between the cross-town rivals and United appear to have finally found a way, all without the aid of their first-choice strikers.
Devoid of Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho's side have struggled to dominate proceedings. It seems he was just looking at the wrong personnel and positions.
In Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, United have three players that can influence games and moments far greater than the two sidelined strikers.
Pogba, in particular, left Goodison Park spellbound as he dictated the game's ebb and flow with relative ease.
If that is what £89 million (S$160.6 million) buys, Lingard's value as a home-grown totem is even greater; only Lukaku has now played a hand in more league goals for his side this season.
Comparisons have burdened the 25-year-old's time at the top, with former United coach Rene Meulensteen billing him as England's answer to Andres Iniesta, while Sir Alex Ferguson had tipped him to develop in a fashion not too dissimilar to France legend Jean Tigana.
Old Trafford's grand master proved to be closer to the truth than his one-time ally.
Stacked against Marcus Rashford's fanfare start to his own fledgling career, Lingard's rise to prominence has been belated but, similarly, is starting to live up to the expectations set by Ferguson during a dynasty which lasted over three decades at the Theatre of Dreams.
The offshoot of that legacy is also providing the backdrop to Mourinho's mask to finally slip.
United's "Class of '92" continue to cast a shadow over Old Trafford's pursuit of progress and the 54-year-old decided to finally break the taboo in defending Pogba against Paul Scholes' withering criticisms of the France international at the end of last year.
Turning on Scholes and the rest of the franchise, spawned on the back of their success in Ferguson's all-winning machine, showed how sullen has been replaced by swagger again; the kind that first endeared Mourinho as he ran jubilantly down the touchline in his current domicile.
For too long, United have found themselves burdened and even dictated by the say-so of Scholes, Ryan Giggs and the Neville brothers, but the tables may finally be turning with the former Chelsea boss.
Fierce defences of his players have long been as staple in Mourinho's time-honoured principles as setting up robust defences, both of which finally returned at Goodison yesterday.
Successive stalemates had seen the former forgotten as his siege mentality was turned on an entire dressing room in the face of successive stalemates over the festive period.
Perhaps all Mourinho needed was a New Year and a fresh target he can attack, as well as win.