Having employed plenty of stick when it comes to his man-management of Luke Shaw, it appears Jose Mourinho is finally ready to try the carrot.
The 21-year-old’s future at Old Trafford has appeared bleak, especially after Mourinho openly questioned his player’s commitment. But there was a rather more arm-round-the-shoulder nature to Jose’s post-match comments as the full-back made a rare start in the 3-0 win at Sunderland.
Mourinho even revealed he’d decided against substituting Show at the interval as a precautionary measure following a first-half yellow card, for fear of it being seen as another significant snub.
“Luke played well, he played solid,” the manager said. “He read the game well so it was a good hour for him. I thought about a half-time change, but that was too harsh for him. I wanted him to play a little bit more, so then 2-0 up after an hour with their crowd asking for everything and putting the referee under pressure, I didn’t want to take any risks.
Only the most cynical observer will link this new touchy-feely approach to the lengthy Old Trafford injury list.
Harry Kane handed Spurs a huge boost when he returned from injury ahead of schedule, but will it be enough to help them catch Chelsea at the top of the Premier League?
Probably not, is the answer, with the Blues looking unassailable at the top. But Kane’s return could help Spurs if they want to win a trophy, with Chelsea in their way again. The clubs meet in the FA Cup semi-final in two weeks’ time, and Kane’s presence will be essential to Spurs’ cause.
Kane admitted his ankle is still not completely right, but he managed the final half-hour against Watford and survived a couple of heavy challenges. “It’s probably not 100%. Even when I came back last time for the Arsenal game it wasn’t 100% but it’s getting close.
“It gives me another week now to prepare and I’m pretty sure it’ll be 100% against Bournemouth next week. It felt great out there, I didn’t feel anything on it even at the end there. That was part of the reason I wanted to play, I wanted to feel that contact - that’s part of the game. I want to get back to normal as soon as possible.
Overshadowed by the goals of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino and the saves of Simon Mignolet was the reaction of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn to being substituted by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp revealed afterwards that the pair – 17 and 18 respectively and making their first and second Premier League starts - sulked after making way for Coutinho and Firmino.
“Those players didn’t celebrate immediately with the boys,” he said. “They don’t have to react like that; they can be disappointed but we will help them more than we help anybody else.
“It’s not about them. It wasn’t as if we didn’t use them – we involved them in the game.” If this is their attitude, then they surely won’t go as far as the players they aspire to be.
They were lucky to be playing because of injuries to Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson and the benching of Coutinho and Firmino.
And surely they should have been looking to make the most of their opportunity, and conduct themselves properly, which means sharing the victory as a team and a squad.
Sitting top of the league and with the title within touching distance, there are few negatives in the air for Chelsea, but the form of Diego Costa may nevertheless be a concern for Antonio Conte.
The striker hasn’t scored for more than four weeks and although it was his miss-hit off--target shot which cannoned off Adam Smith for the opening goal at Bournemouth, his overall performance was poor in the context of what has been a positive season.
It wasn’t just that Costa contributed little in a game where all of Chelsea’s threat came down the wings, it was that he looked woefully short of confidence. Shots were wild, passes misplaced, balls seemed to bounce off him. Nothing went his way. When you consider how Costa’s form slumped so alarmingly last season before picking up when Jose Mourinho was sacked, it’s a worry. Chelsea really need him in these final seven games.