It was a historic low for Jose Mourinho. When the 2019 finalists beat a sorry exit from the Champions League against a more energetic, more enterprising Leipzig side, Tottenham had gone six games without a win.
Mourinho was in territory he had never previously charted in his 935-match managerial career.
He still is but the context has changed. The makeshift forward line that appeared in Leipzig will be replaced by something more recognisable. The 1.7-metre Lucas Moura will not have do an unconvincing impression of a Mourinho target man anymore.
Mourinho being Mourinho, he nevertheless pleaded misfortune at his pre-match press conference, yet Tottenham will emerge stronger from a pause. Their manager enters a reunion with his last employers with greater resources and more firepower.
“The three players who had surgery,” as he called the injured brigade, will start. Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Moussa Sissoko would all have missed the Manchester United match when it was scheduled to be played in March. Mourinho said in February he would “love it to be 1 July.” As it has transpired, playing on 19 June has given Spurs a new look.
“Harry Kane hasn’t played football for more than six months,” his manager said. “He's going to start. Does Harry have 90, 80, 70, 60 minutes? I don't know. Only the game will tell us that. Is he on the top of his form? We don't know.”
But a player who had scored 27 times for club and country before he was injured on New Year's Day is back and Tottenham should have more potency, even without the suspended Dele Alli.
The midfielder serves a one-match ban for a March post on social media about coronavirus. Mourinho felt the punishment exceeded the crime.
“Compared with wrong behaviours at much bigger dimensions that happened during this period without any consequences …” he said.
And yet Tottenham's disciplinary problems could have been worse. Eric Dier's misconduct case for entering the crowd after the FA Cup defeat to Norwich City has still not been heard.
“People with great responsibilities in the game said they would do exactly as he did,” said Mourinho, drawing an unexpected comparison with the widely-praised activities of one of his former charges to ensure children from more deprived backgrounds still receive free school meals.
“If this story is still alive, it surprises me very, very much because we now, even with Marcus Rashford, have the proof that what is right is right. Sometimes this is really, really powerful in support of the right causes.”
If it was conflating two very different issues, Mourinho has other concerns. Giovani Lo Celso, arguably Spurs’ outstanding player of his reign, will have a fitness test to see if he can start.
The Argentine was denied close contact with physios for two months during lockdown. “Gio, I consider to be one of the victims of the rules and one of the victims of the protocols,” Mourinho said.
There are other signs of remarkable times. Minus Japhet Tanganga, who has a stress fracture of his back, Mourinho may have to rely on Jan Vertonghen. It could prove a valedictory appearance for the Belgian, whose contract expires this month and who is yet to sign a short-term extension.
“Jan is a fantastic guy, a fantastic professional,” said Mourinho. “His love for the club, his respect for the club, is never in doubt. Of course he's committed with us, of course he's ready to play.”
And so should Spurs be. They were in freefall three months ago. Now they have a chance to salvage a season that was going horribly wrong and to use a break to turn Mourinho’s worst run into a springboard.