Richard Buxton: Pep Guardiola brings out the best in Jose Mourinho
The Special One seems to come alive whenever he meets his nemesis
Jose Mourinho should have an image of Pep Guardiola permanently on display in his office.
Facing the Manchester City manager continually brings out the best in the Portuguese, as Tottenham Hotspur's 2-0 win yesterday morning (Singapore time) proved.
Only Juergen Klopp has beaten Guardiola more times than the Special One, who seems to come alive whenever they face off.
There is something about the City boss that makes Mourinho roll back the years. Claims of him being "humble" go out the window when it comes to their long-standing feud.
The Portuguese becomes more animated and determined against his old nemesis.
Reserving gamesmanship for meetings with Guardiola, even when his opposite number remains far from the peak of his powers, are a perfect palate cleanser to stave off questions about staleness.
Helping Liverpool extend their unassailable dominance this season to a 22-point margin will only have heightened Mourinho's motivation to again outshine his eternal adversary.
But spoiling the fun of the man who pipped him to the Barcelona hot seat a decade ago can also have a catalytic effect on an indifferent campaign at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Spurs are unlikely to finish ahead of the fallen EPL champions this term, with a 14-point gulf highlighting the ongoing divide.
Yet, Mourinho showed that he is still capable of dusting off his managerial playbook when the occasion dictates.
Portraying the pantomime villain continues to suit him, even in a victory fashioned largely out of luck rather than pragmatic will, with Tottenham's two goals coming from just three attempts.
All the familiar hallmarks of finger-wagging and imaginary card-waving returned to the fore.
They may no longer be considered equals within elite-level management circles, but Mourinho cannot resist the opportunity to put one over Guardiola, as he had done with Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Last season's Champions League finalists still have a long way to go in ridding themselves of the malaise which set in during the final weeks of Mauricio Pochettino's tenure.
Exorcising two of the Argentine's ghosts in the transfer window, however, was a positive starting point.
Christian Eriksen sought a move which reflected his stature while Danny Rose just wanted to play for a club where he did not need to use Google to look up his teammates.
Both didn't get what they truly wanted in their respective January switches to Inter Milan and Newcastle United.
Tottenham did, though.
No longer are they hostage to the Dane's inconsistent displays, which preceded his wantaway phase, nor the haphazard defending of Rose - which threatened to further unseat an already fragile backline and blocked Japhet Tanganga's first-team pathway.
Extricating the pair already appears to be a rare triumph of Mourinho's squad-rebuilding tasks; lifting a cloud which lingered unnecessarily above the north London outfit.
Both he and Guardiola will be tasked with giving facelifts to sides that have grown stale in the pursuit of progress.
Compared to refurbishing a City team that have declined since they emphatically clinched successive EPL titles, Mourinho's task at Spurs could prove more straightforward.
To again have the Catalan in his sights, Spurs will need to imagine playing him every week, for the next few months, at least.