Tottenham 3 Manchester United 0
Mauricio Pochettino missed Tottenham's third goal because he was sat on the toilet. Push and Run from our head coach whilst the United players were bricking it out on the field. Another day in the Premier League and yet another extension of a very unlikely (but still just about mathematical) title push in a season that just refuses to surrender and die peacefully.
If the consolation prize is to forge our fledgling yet mature philosophy by never giving up, then I'll gladly accept further extensions. After-all, the future is bright, the future is Lilywhite. Don't believe the tag-line, just re-watch our ascension across the entirety of 2015/16.
Whilst everyone else is lost in the almost Disneyesque hyperbole of Leicester City's survival from relegation and their humble beginnings (ignoring their collective misdemeanours) Spurs continue to dream the impossible. And why shouldn't we? A title win is just about as unlikely for this club as it was for the leaders at the start of the season. Our fairytale is the one that's(I just can't admit it) probably going to come to an abrupt end in the coming weeks as logical analysis will confirm (based on everything that's happened so far) that Leicester couldn't possibly lose three games when they've not lost more than three all season. Or could they?
I'm not going to stress about it. It's been out of our hands for a while. To see us persist with the desire and application we displayed against United on Sunday awards me a magnificent feeling regardless. We have seen the rebirth of this football club across the past eight months or so. Identity, style and culture rebooted even if the footballing God's mock us lightly from above...what with us having scored the most goals, conceded the fewest and have a mighty goal difference as a consequence. I have so much faith in how Pochettino and his staff train, prepare and develop that I'm completely lost in my trust in the team.
I won't lie though, I was worried early on against United. Thought the earlier result from the Stadium of Light might have weight heavily on a few heads. The visitors arrived late into N17, delaying the kick-off. That didn't impact their urgency when the game eventually kicked-off. We looked slow and untidy. They pressed us relentlessly, boxed us in. For a time I actually wished they had just driven straight onto the White Hart Lane turf and mistakenly parked up in front of our goal. The games tempo was ominously in their favour, bossing possession and looking far more confident and accomplished. Yet it was us posing the goal bound threats.
Harry Kane from eight years out, thwarted by the speed and body of David De Gea. Then an almost impossible to miss opportunity for Erik Lamela which he executed perfectly away from goal. The Argentine all on his own, five yards from glory, only to nod it wide. This after Kane was again involved with De Gea as United struggled to clear the ball. Add to it opportunities from Kyle Walker dinking into the box from wide and a cross that might have ended in the back of the net had someone got a touch late on in the half - Spurs were far more productive with their chances than the men in red.
The second half started off in similar fashion to the first but gradually shifted in our favour building towards the brilliance of an almighty b*tch-slap dished out to the shell-shocked and ruined Mancunians. No way could they retain the momentum of their first half frenzied tempo. For all their lung busting they lacked the cutting edge to make any of it count. Spurs then settled into a more cultured pressing game.
In the space of six minutes we showcased ruthlessness reminiscent of so many of the performances United have punished us with in the past fifteen years. It was the best six minutes I've experienced since that time in I was locked in a cubicle in Pacha (Ibiza) with two Scandinavian girls and a gram of MDMA.
70 minutes - Lamela on the ground digging the ball out for Kane to ping it out wide to Christian Eriksen who sent in an utterly delicious cross for the quiet Dele Alli to explode into life for the 1-0.
74 minutes - Lamela involved again, this time assisting with a superbly delivered cross to the rising and immaculate Toby Alderweireld to head it in for 2-0.
76 minutes - A fantastic move. Walker cross field, Eriksen softly heading it on to Danny Rose who crosses into the path of Lamela who slots it perfectly for 3-0.
In-game, it seemed a life-time ago that Anthony Martial danced his way through a uncharacteristically static Spurs defence only to have his shot stopped by Hugo Lloris. United going on to suffer left-flank hell after losing Timothy Fosu-Mensah post-68th minute.
The man with the CV, Louis van Gaal, proving that sometimes the most obvious choice for appointment isn't the right one. We wanted him, remember? By design, we never get it right. Not that Pochettino was accidental of course. Missing out on LvG meant that Daniel Levy has got himself the perfect coach; someone willing to work with the players he has and carefully construct a squad to match his expectations. No clumsy DoF system to muddy the waters. Astute acquisitions and disciplined development. Can you see any one of our players wanting to leave? Onus on Levy and the board to remain in the shadows whilst quietly and effectively supporting the coach. We are not the finished article. Our record against the 'big teams' has been decentthis season but it's also been the difference between sitting 2nd and 1st. Lots of work ahead.
In the end, Leicester's ten point lead became seven again and onwards Tottenham march, waiting for a Jordan Spieth capitulation to unfold.
Not par for the course, is it?
Add to it the fact that LC can still get away with dropping points. We can't. It really would take the most incredible collapse for this season to break the hearts of every neutral and leave them in a state of salty mess, p*ss boiling everywhere.
We're now going to be playing games AFTER Leicester meaning we know their result before our attempts to keep up. It won't matter much if they win their next three. Claudio Ranieri will see his team crowned champions but it's imperative we cement our winning mentality by remaining focused. Keep on fighting, right? This season isn't another little adventure plucky Spurs have crafted for themselves. It has the potential to be the springboard for genuine success. Thinking any differently would be criminal.
The boys from the Lane are back with a new general.
Jan Vertonghen's return, [cliché] It's like he's never been away [/cliché]. The line-up, arguably our best starting eleven. Kevin Wimmer has done well in Jan's absence and it's good to know we have depth and quality at the back. We'll need it next season. No point in rotating now. Just go for it. We've got nothing to lose, right?
Lamela remains an enigma. That's E-N-I-G-M-A not enema. He's not a £30M player, at least not the one we thought we had signed. Hype, Bale's departure and the standard miscalculation made by Levy and Franco Baldini meant his first season was a nightmare. He wasn't suited for the pace and physicality of the league, there was no grand design or pragmatism in him joining other than it being one of many marquee signings (and Baldini had already signed him for Roma from River Plate). Once again testament to Pochettino and his methods, moulding him into a player that seems to give us something effective which is at times undefinable to most watching. Hence why he's absolutely loved or absolutely loathed.
A combination of aggression and incessant pressing, his intensity makes us tick, more so than others that might be instructed to apply the very same tactics. Okay, sure, we could sign a midfielder that is more competent at these aspects of the game rather than re-train an alleged flair player to carry out strategic moves to 'run around' and get involved. Yet there's a beauty to this transition. He can still produce telling moments, that usually get buried under the criticism that 'he should be producing these moments all the time'. A touch unfair when you consider the progression of others in the side and the fact they can also suffer from lulls.
He's paradoxical, however, when you consider the transformation of Danny Rose we might yet see Lamela evolve into a player with consistent influence, not just against the big teams, but across the season no matter the opposition. I think, it's likely, that Spurs and Poch have worked hard to perhaps save the club some embarrassment with the money spent but credit to the player and his personal work ethos. Weaker men would have fallen, left broken and dejected, whilst Erik just keeps on improving. Be it in cameos.
The real beauty of this teams is that there's a balance to shape and purpose that means some can appear ineffectual but still produce game-changing football. It's a team, never forget this minor little detail. Even when one part isn't quite functioning the rest make up for it.
Just as a footnote re: Lamela and his aggression, sometimes he's guilty of over exuberance that needs to be controlled. The two-footed challenge on Juan Mata instantly forgotten about thanks to the yellow card given to Rose for a challenge seconds earlier. It might not have been as reckless as it looked but on another day the ref could have seen it differently.
Eriksen's journey hasn't been plain sailing either. I seem to remember him being lost at sea early on in Pochettino's reign. Yet now, he's imperative to our movement and that quick brutal switch from midfield to attack. He's gone from sail-boat to White Shark. Perhaps too often always seeking that killer ball but for the most part, his influence is not too dissimilar to Luka Modric's (don't scream at me, I'm not comparing them pound for pound).
Much like the Croatian was the centre-point for our creativity, Eriksen is always in the thick of it, conducting further up the field than Luka's deep-play. I'm laughing to myself typing this but I guess that would actually make Lamela our present day Scott Parker - biting at ankles, doing all the running whilst the great Dane barks and bites with visionary touches in the final third. Bark and bite also common traits with Lamela (he's nothing like Parker really, he scores and creates) so I'll just let this confused analogy eat itself and move on...
Think of it this way, both have an abundance of ability and both can improve further. And why wouldn't they when everyone under Poch and his team have? Kudos to the coach because every positive here is thanks to him. Just remember the pathetic reaction to Danny Rose signing a five year contract. Okay, so most of us felt he wasn't good enough. Now look at him. What does that tell you? WE KNOW NOTHING, WE PRETEND TO KNOW EVERYTHING. The caps lock speaks the truth.
Happy birthday to Dele Alli. Even when he's not too involved in the game he's still capable of exquisite anticipation. His season has been schoolboys own stuff. Just a joy to behold. Out of nowhere, even if he was highly rated. Nobody expected him to blossom with such ease. How Alli and Eric Dier look at each other off the field is how I spend my days thinking about Spurs. IN LOVE.
The Hugo Lloris save (not that he had to do much other than simply stand strong). It's the only thing I remember that's United-centric where my heart sat in my mouth.
Our fullbacks are phenomenal. Can the last narcissistic idiot that still persists in calling Walker a clown shut the door on the way out of the fanbase? As a team we don't shape up with traditional wide men so the emphasis is on Walker and Rose to get forward. Both are majestic in attack. You could be critical with regards to defensive positioning, but you know what...the game is about glory...and if you take a look at our record at the back it's not too shabby is it? So the occasional misstep is simply part and parcel of wanting to burst with pace down the wing. Boring boring Tottenham. Embrace the fact that our fullbacks are just as good as the centre-backs.
(In addition: Loved Walker v Depay. Almost lasted longer than Joshua v Martin).
Kane was involved like he always is, all over the pitch, the complete forward player. All this having played during the summer and given other strikers a head-start with his early season drought. Shame he didn't manage to bag himself a goal. I don't know how we do it, but we always find a gem. He's a top quality player capable of world class technique and finishing. The difference this time is that we don't just rely on an individual to muster up some magic. Synergy remains key. Still, he can do with support, especially if we wish to take European competition (and domestic cups) more seriously.
Alderweireld is one of, if not the player of our season. A rock. The defence was the original building block Pochettino worked on. He fixed us up at the back and the rest followed. The commitment to Spurs that Jan and Mousa Dembele spoke with after the game is truly heart-warming and speaks volumes about how far this club has gone in such a short space of time. Both players, at one point, looking likely to leave and yet now they're fused in amongst the rest whilst we all nod knowingly that this is the best squad we've had for generations.
This is just the beginning.
God damn it, if I close my eyes I'm still in that cubical in Ibiza.